THE Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority today welcomed the Government's decision to increase its core grant by almost 10%, the largest increase of all the English national parks, as "exceptional news" for the area.
The announcement by the Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael came with an extra bonus for the area's communities, with a Government commitment to the continued funding of the recently launched Sustainable Development Fund for a further year.
Come April 2003, the Fund will increase from £125,000 to £200,000 a year for the national park authority to distribute for sustainable development projects.
The increase in the grant, which will come into effect from 1 April, will fund the Authority's current conservation, recreation, interpretation and community work. The funding will pay for a range of initiatives to address social exclusion and prepare for access to the open countryside. The authority also received a further £500,000 towards its new northern office in Bainbridge.
Said park chief executive David Butterworth: "For the third year in a row, the Government has increased our grant, giving us the funds to spend in the national park on programmes that will benefit the landscape, our local communities and many millions of visitors."
In addition to paying for the park's responsibilities under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act - the so-called "right to roam" legislation now the subject to lengthy consultation - the additional money will pay for the authority's joint Limestone Country Project and finance initiatives to tackle social exclusion and help the park make its advantages known to a wider audience.