MORE than 600 people responded to the consultation Your Dales, Your Views. The responses will be used to form the national park's next five year management plan. Lesley Tate reports on the issues.

WILDLIFE crime, community sustainability, and the future of farming, post Brexit, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park have emerged as three of the biggest issues for residents and visitors.

A total of 623 submissions - by email, online and on postcards - were made during the public consultation Your Dales, Your Views, which took place between May and July this year.

A strong response to the issue of wildlife crime, particularly around the persecution of birds of prey, such as hen harriers, was felt to be a reflection of the high profile the issue was receiving both locally and nationally. There was also 'strong concern' about the harm it could causing to the reputation of the national park, with some respondents suggesting measures including the licensing or banning of grouse shooting.

Both residents and visitors were asked three simple questions - what they love about the park, how they think it could be improved, and what they think are the three most important issues for the park's management plan over the next five years.

Residents consistently pointed to concerns about community sustainability, raising issues about a lack of affordable housing pushing young people away, and insufficient well paid or secure employment.

Non residents, who made up 42 per cent of those who took part in the consultation, were more concerned with wildlife crime - particularly around grouse shooting moors - and access issues.

Carl Lis, chairman of the national park authority, who also chairs its management plan steering group, said there had been a really good response to the consultation, which included 56 'Dear Carl' postcard responses.

“We’ve gained a very useful insight into the issues that both residents and visitors care most about. I’d like to thank everyone who took part. All the views and suggestions will be considered and, where possible, built into the next management plan, which in effect will provide a work programme for a whole range of organisations operating in the national park," he said.

On the first question – about what people loved about the park – one in three said it was the landscape and scenery, with wildlife, beauty and open spaces also often mentioned.

One referred to 'internationally significant cave systems' while another said it was the 'open spaces, dark skies, good access and great cycling' that they loved about the park.

As to what could be improved, there was a wide range of views. Among residents, who made up 57 per cent of the respondents, about six out of ten mentioned community sustainability the most.

There was great concern that communities in the park were struggling as young people continued to leave due to a lack of affordable housing and insufficiently well paid, or secure employment.

There was also concern about increasingly distant healthcare services, a lack of public transport and the loss of banks and schools.

A strong call was made by some respondents to improve public transport by maintaining or raising subsidies for the likes of Dalesbus.

Public transport was seen as a way of enabling greater diversity of visitors and enabling those who cannot drive to visit the park, and also for residents to reach the services they need.

The environmental benefits of public transport was also raised in terms of reducing congestion and pollution, with practical suggestions put forward to better connect rail and bus services.

The second most cited area for improvement, among both residents and visitors, regarded access to the countryside. Many respondents wanted better access for walking, cycling and horse riding, as well as better access to caves.

On the third question – about the most important issues for the management plan to tackle – residents said maintaining local services should be the top priority. Protecting the viability of upland farming post-Brexit and tackling the shortage of affordable housing were the other suggested top priorities.

For visitors, wildlife protection and enhancement was the most important issue for the plan to tackle, and they frequently raised the issue of birds of prey persecution. Strong views were expressed about land management, particularly grouse moorland management.

The strength of the response reflected the high profile the issue, particularly with birds of prey, such as hen harriers, had received both locally and in the wider media, concluded the report, which felt there had been some campaigning about the specific issue.

"There are some negative comments and strong concern about the harm it may be causing to the reputation of the national park. Blame is laid at the door of certain land management practices around grouse shooting. Suggestions for tackling it include increased monitoring, use of volunteers, licensing or even banning grouse shooting," said the report.

The second most cited area for improvement, among both residents and visitors, regarded access to the countryside. Many respondents wanted better access for walking, cycling and horse riding, as well as better access to caves.

Seven ‘drafting groups’ will now use the results of the consultation to inform the work they will be doing on preparing specific objectives for a new management plan.

Mr Lis said: “A full draft National Park Management Plan – covering the next five years – will be published early next year. It will be subject to public consultation, which means that people will get a second chance to have their say on what needs to be done to make the Yorkshire Dales National Park a better place.”

The national park has a statutory duty to review the management plan every five years. The current plan runs until 2018.

To see a summarised report of the consultation, go to: