Views sought on Peak Park governance

The government is proposing changes to the way national park authorities are governed in order to increase local accountability – and it wants to hear people’s views.

At present, the Peak District National Park Authority is governed by 30 members, 16 of whom are councillors appointed by the local authorities within the national park. Six are parish councillors elected by their peers but officially appointed by the Secretary of State, and eight are appointed directly by the Secretary of State for their specialist knowledge of national park issues.

The proposals from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) would involve changes in the law to:

- Make it possible for national park authorities to include some directly elected members

- Remove the need for the Secretary of State to appoint the parish members

- Relax the political balance requirement on local authorities when appointing their members to a national park authority

- Make it possible to allow parishes in subsequently specified national parks to choose non-councillors for their seats

- Apply a maximum length of service for members of eight years.

The consultation runs to May 31. People can take part in it by going to: http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/open/

The Authority is expected to decide its own response on May 25.

Peak District National Park Authority chief executive Jim Dixon said: “These would be important changes in the way decisions are made about the national park and I hope as many local people as possible will take advantage of the consultation to give their views.”

The move follows an earlier public consultation that ended a year ago.

Defra reviewed national park governance in the light of that and selected the Peak District and the New Forest national park authorities to pilot direct elections, possibly in 2013.

A further consultation will follow later this year relating to specific arrangements for the Peak District and New Forest. The consultation document states “Our current thinking is to try an approach in the New Forest and Peak District in which the directly elected members form about 20 per cent of the membership.”

At present, only two of the UK’s 15 national parks have a proportion of their members directly elected – both in Scotland.