Peak District communities fear cuts will destroy them
Video: Peak District cuts fear
Communities living in the Peak District National Park in Staffordshire could disappear, claim people who live there.
Many fear proposed funding cuts of almost 30% to national parks could destroy their living.
"The Peak District is managed more for visitors than residents" said Dehra Griffiths, headmistress at Flash School - which only has 7 pupils.
The relevant government department, DEFRA, says a new consultation will address the problems.
All parties are grappling with the problem of keeping rural communities alive while, at the same time, maintaining the natural beauty of the landscape.
The Peak District National Park, which spans over 550 square miles (about the same size as Greater London), is home to just 38,000 people. Even among these, there are competing needs: the requirements of the farmer, the businessperson, the singleton and the young family are each unique.
Balanced against that are the 10 million or so visitors who make recreational use of the land. Then there are also the environmentalists who passionately defend its unspoilt beauty.
The village of Flash, perched high up in the Staffordshire Moorlands (it is generally regarded as the highest village in England), experiences the familiar problems of other Peak National Park villages. Planning restrictions keep the housing stock low. Just five new homes have been built there over the past 50 years.
This impacts on house prices, which, villagers say, are are often inflated and out of reach of most young families.
As families find it harder to stay, the village primary school has seen a serious drop in the number of pupils. There were 15 children not so long ago at Flash Primary; now it has just seven.
"Something has to change. The Peak District is managed more for visitors and for people from outside," warned acting headmistress, Dehra Griffiths.
"The numbers have fallen in a natural way because we haven't enough housing.
"Young people can't move back into the area and can't bring their families," added Dehra.
A government spending review, which asks for big savings in almost every department, muddies the water even more. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), has agreed to a 29% budget cut in its budget over the next four years.
In November 2010, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, who heads DEFRA, launched a consultation on how cuts should be implemented, with the aim of responding more to the needs of local people.
Speaking on the BBC Politics Show, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the MP for another area of outstanding natural beauty, the Cotswolds, said: "I think that Caroline Spelman has done exactly the right thing to have this consultation so we can ask the people who live in the national parks, the people who taught at Flash Primary School, the farmer, exactly what they want for their own area."
Mr Clifton-Brown is convinced that the concerns of local people should be of paramount importance.
"Unless we actually provide a livelihood for the people who live in the national parks, communities will die out - the national parks are what they are because they were a living landscape.
"They were formed by people who worked there, lived there, made their livelihood there. We have to adapt to modern times; we can't just have our National Parks preserved in aspic, they have to move a bit with the times," said Mr Clifton-Brown.
The Peak District is the oldest of Britain's 15 national parks.
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