Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Give Us Freedom and We'll Create Jobs and Prosperity in the Countryside'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Give Us Freedom and We'll Create Jobs and Prosperity in the Countryside'

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth Regional Affairs Reporter

POWERS that allow Northumberland National Park to trade freely would enable the tourist attraction to create "a rural arm of the Northern Powerhouse," its new chairman has said.

Glen Sanderson said the Government must back the park in its bid to create jobs and prosperity in the rural North East during his first speech in the new role at a conference on the rural economy in Hexham, attended by Rural Affairs Minister Rory Stewart.

The farmer and Northumberland councillor said a PS14.2m investment as part of the new Sill National Landscape Centre, the Dark Sky project and the Eastburn Enterprise Hub were building a "critical mass" in the "most rural of rural areas" despite widespread austerity. But, he stressed, the park does not need "a heavy bureaucratic hand" but more powers to build for the future.

He said: "I am very proud of what we have achieved, and to share the ambitious vision that we have, but we would like to do more.

"Extending the powers to allow National Parks to trade more easily would be welcomed by us. This would ensure more work can get done within the park to benefit both visitors and businesses, and allow us to plan strategically for the long term so we are clear on our role to genuinely welcome visitors, to preserve our natural beauty and diversity, to proactively support rural business wherever, and however, we can, and to be ambitious in delivering our role.

"The National Park Authority in Northumberland is not simply demonstrating that we wholeheartedly support the rural economy, we are an integral, and committed, part of it."

Chancellor George Osborne has faced criticism his economic approach has focused too heavily on cities while failing to offer rural communities a strategy for the future.

Coun Sanderson said Northumberland National Park (NNP) had lost 40% of its staff but that volunteers had stepped in, accounting for almost 2,500 man hours last year.

He said: "The Enterprise Hub at Eastburn, our small headquarters just up the road from here, has been transformed by the building of new office space for small and start-up businesses. …

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