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Moves made for The Cotswolds to become a National Park

A FORMAL evaluation of the potential benefits and disadvantages of designating The Cotswolds as a National Park is to take place.

Cotswold District councillors have ordered the study to get a full understanding of the implications.

In January, MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said there was ‘clear case’ for it.

National Park status offers areas another layer of protection to its landscape and wildlife, specifically on planning matters.

But there are concerns that it could mean relinquishing certain decision-making powers.

There are 15 National Parks in the UK, all run by independent bodies and funded by central government.

The Cotswolds is already an Area of Natural Beauty (ANOB), and measures just over 2,000 square kilometres, stretching from Ilmington in Stratford District to the north, down beyond Bath in Somerset, to the south.

Cllr Joe Harris, the leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, tabled a motion calling for the study.

He said: “We know that local MPs have generated interest in this issue and it is important that we now gain a full understanding of all of the issues involved in designating a new National Park area.

“While it is clear that there are benefits for the tourism sector, we are concerned about the possible impact on future affordable housing provision, and local responsibility for planning matters.

“Setting up this evaluation with other affected authorities means that we should be well placed to respond to any possible consultation process and, hopefully, it will provide us with a significant body of evidence to inform our views.”

Cllr Stephen Hirst, the council’s cabinet member for housing, health and leisure, added: “About 80 per cent of the District comprises Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so there is already a good level of protection afforded to our landscape and communities.

“However, National Park designation is a significant step further and raises the prospect of key decision making powers being taken away from democratically elected councillors working on behalf of local residents.”

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