Dorset CPRE has officially backed support to create a Dorset National Park, incorporating the existing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and possibly other areas so far not protected.

There is speculation a future National Park could be extended to include the beautiful downland north or Dorchester’s water meadows, currently being eyed by developers as a site for 3,500 new homes (see p3).

In a statement, Peter Neal, chair of trustees, says Dorset CPRE “would wish the National Park to include as much as possible of rural Dorset and, subject to assessment, to align with the Dorset Council area”.

The move follows the launch by Environment Secretary Michael Gove of a review of all England’s National Parks and AONBs by Julian Glover.

Dorset CPRE commissioned Jo Witherden, an experienced and respected Dorset planner, to look at the proposal, and it says she has found “formidable and wide-ranging evidence to support the designation of a National Park for rural Dorset”.

 Ms Witherden says more attention has been given, over the years, to researching and documenting the landscape quality of the AONB areas than other parts of rural Dorset, and there are variations and weaknesses in documenting the cultural heritage and information about biodiversity and recreational opportunity.

She has also highlighted weaknesses in monitoring the ongoing condition of Dorset’s landscape, biodiversity and heritage assets. Her report recommends that work should continue with a view to extending the evidence available.

“Dorset CPRE will therefore consider an ongoing evidence-gathering project, to create an opportunity for communities, societies, agencies and individuals to participate by contributing to a growing evidence base,” said Mr Neal.

“This current report, and the growing evidence base which would result from an ongoing project, have the potential to make a valuable contribution to the Dorset Council and other stakeholders in their future work, including the preparation of a new Local Plan in which we hope to see the involvement of a new Dorset National Park.”

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