LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
[Correspondents are requested to keep their letters as brief as is reasonably possible. The most suitable length is that of one of our " News of the Week " paragraphs. Signed letters are given a preference over those bearing a pseudonym, and the latter must be accompanied by THE name and address of the author, which will be treated as confidential.—Ed. THE SPECTATOR.]
[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—Some remarks in which my name was mentioned, made by Sir William Beach Thomas in your issue of October 15th,
on the subject of the proposal for National Parks, particularly in relation to the Lake District, call for an explanation of the real character of the proposal. On Saturday last I moved at the Annual Conference of the Council for Preservation of Rural England the following resolution :
" That this Conference urges the Government to set up without further delay a National Park Authority as recommended in the 1931 Report of the National Park Committee, and to take all other necessary steps to ensure the preservation of National Parks at a sufficient number of suitable areas in Great Britain."
After a long but harmonious discussion, this resolution was passed without one dissentient in a meeting of several hundred
persons representing the branches of the C.P.R.E. and including all the officers of that Society. Apparently Sir W.
Beach Thomas, while not averse to the idea of a Lake District National Park, has reserves, arising from a fear that I desire to set up " gazebos " in the Lake District, and that my ideas of a National Park are " urban rather than rural " ! The personal courtesy with which the writer refers to me makes this unfounded suspicion all the more strange. But although it may be thought that I am secretly aiming at the " urbanisa- tion " of the Lake District contrary to the professions of a lifetime, I hardly think that anyone will accuse the whole body of the C.P.R.E. of such an intention. If so, who then shall be saved ? Such suspicions will vanish if the Report of the National Parks Committee of 1931 is studied, upon which the policy of the C.P.R.E. is based (Cmd. 3851).
The object is to preserve the present conditions in the Lake District and the other areas that may be chosen as National Parks. This would mean the preservation of sheep farms as such, in the present ownership. Access exists by courtesy all over the sheep farms and fells on the Lake District, as it is to the interest of the farmers and other inhabitants to attract visitors. This state of things would continue as before. The object of the scheme is to prevent undesirable building develop- ment (whether of bungalows or " gazebos ") and to control
the activity of industrial undertakings or public works that would injure the amenity of the area. The policy is, in fact, that the State should aid the Local Authorities to carry out regional plans for certain districts of special beauty, of which
one would probably be the Lake District.
The National Parks programme is not a proposal to purchase large regions for national ownership. The price of that would be prohibitive. It is a proposal to set up a State
Authority to carry out a proper regional plan, by agreements with existing proprietors and with the local bodies in certain specific regions of great natural beauty. It is well known that among regions suggested are the Lake District, Snowdonia, Dovedale and Manifold valleys, parts of the Cornish and Pembroke coast, regions in Scotland and other regions. But the question of choice of areas must be left over for decision either by Parliament or by the National Park Authority when it has been set up.
In the areas that we have in mind, regional planning by the Lccil Authorities alone is not working, mainly because of the question of compensation to landlords for development rights, which the Local Authorities cannot supply from the rates unaided, because the rateable value of these lovely regions is low. Indeed the local authorities may ask why they should hind all the money, when the need for preservation is national, and benefit will accrue to visitors from London, Manchester, Birmingham and all the island.
Moreover, Local Authorities do not always realise the amenity value of the regions which they partially control.
Even now the consent of a Local Authority in Lakeland has Just been given to an electricity scheme which would inflict grave injury" to the beauty of Borrowdale, in the very heart
of the Lake District. Other industrial undertakings are perpetually encroaching. Lakeland is still under fire. Every few months there is some new attack, some new alarm, and so it is impossible to avert some new injury.
Motor traffic has made the question of these specially beautiful areas no longer local but national. Yet the State still shuffles off its duty on to Local Authorities, with the result that next to nothing is done, and it is only a question of time before the beauty of these regions is injured beyond repair.
The Government is at present engaged on a health cam- paign. It undertakes to assist the health of the nation and to find playing fields for the dwellers in the great cities to play cricket and football. It is no less essential for any national health scheme to preserve the national walking grounds, and regions where young and old can enjoy the sight and feel the influences of unspoiled nature.
A quarter of a million is yearly spent from the taxpayers' money on the mere upkeep of certain London parks which are and must necessarily be " urban." The same amount of money, granted not annually but once for all, would, as the Committee of 1931 calculated, suffice to set up a number of these other and very different " National Parks " to save them from urbanisation. After the initial steps, their annual upkeep would be small, as the land would in nearly all cases remain in the hands of the existing proprietors, and remain
as agricultural land.—I am, Sir, &c., G. M. TREVELYAN.