A consultation is underway on the management of the Yorkshire Dales National Park for the next five years, Lesley Tate reports.

WE all love the Yorkshire Dales National Park and people all over the country - and across the world - agree with us.

It is the second largest national park in England, after the Lake District, and is the currently the nation's favourite, in a poll carried out by the BBC's Countryfile magazine.

In 2015, it was estimated that the park was visited by 3.62 million people, the vast majority coming to enjoy the wonderful countryside, to take on its resident peaks, Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, or perhaps to cycle, to ride a horse, or to mountain bike.

Some £199 million pounds is spent in the park every year by tourists, providing 3,790 jobs.

It is also home to almost 20,000 people, 41 per cent of whom are under 45 years old, and 35 per cent are 60 years old, or more.

And those people live in the farms and villages, in homes of which 1,714 are listed and 203 are scheduled monuments.

In addition to its local plan, which sets out where new houses, and other development should be built, the national park has a Management Plan.

There is a statutory duty for the park to review the plan every five years - which it will have to do by next year, and it s asking people -whether they are residents, business owners, or visitors - to take part in a consultation which will run until July 3.

The Management Plan sets out the ambitions for how the park will be looked after over the next five to ten years.

And, it will guide and focus the work to be carried out to secure a 'prosperous future' for the park and its communities.

In addition to the national park, 12 other public, private and voluntary sector organisations operating in the park are involved in the consultation and the putting together of the plan.

They include Craven District Council, which is responsible for some services in the park, but not planning applications, the Dales Farmer Network, the Forestry Commission and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

Carl Lis, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park authority, said it was a great opportunity for people - whether they be residents, business owners, or visitors - to help shape the future of the park.

“I hear people in the street saying that ‘they’ should be doing this or that. The ‘they’ is shorthand for organisations which are perceived to have power or influence," he said.

"Well, this survey is a chance for all those people to speak directly to those organisations. Tell us what you think should be happening in the national park to make it a better place."

He said a great many things had happened in the park over the past five years in response to what people had told the authority the last time round, in 2012.

" A good example of progress is the new rail siding serving Arcow and Dry Rigg quarries. People said they wanted fewer lorries on the road. As a result, an objective was included in the Management Plan to establish rail links at the three quarries in Ribblesdale – two of which have now been connected," he said.

In the consultation, people are being asked what it is they love about the park, how they think it could be improved, and crucially - what they think are the three most important issues for the management plan to tackle over the next five years.

A recent and ongoing issue - which is likely to impact on people for many years to come - is the proposed closure of Horton-in-Ribblesdale CoE primary school. The decision, by North Yorkshire County Council and the Anglican Diocese of Leeds - which has been challenged and is awaiting a decision from the Schools Adjudicator - was made because of the very low number of pupils and the unlikelihood of more families moving into the village.

It is a fact, that of the 8,804 homes in the park, 22 per cent are not permanently occupied, and are either holiday, or second homes, and carry an average price of around £260,000.

It means many young people are not able to get onto the property ladder - and even with the park building affordable homes, including 12 in Grassington, and 10 in Embsay, it is not enough, and the park - which is the planning authority - is aiming to build more. Its current target is to build at least 75 affordable homes by next year.

The park says answers to its consultation will be used to help update the management plan for the next five years up to 2023.

A spokesman said: "The Management Plan is the most important document for influencing what happens in the national park. It sets out a long-term ‘vision’ for the park and a list of specific objectives that the 13 organisations, and many others, will work together to achieve."

Mr Lis added: “Whether you prefer to use modern technology, or pen and paper, or one of the postcards that are available from local information centres, putting forward your views could not be easier.”

The information and opinions gathered will be used to create a draft National Park Management Plan, which will go out for public consultation early next year.

Aims at the heart of the national park are to be a distinctive, living, working and cultural landscape, to be a friendly, open and welcoming place, and to be home to the finest variety of wildlife in England.

It also aims to be resilient and responsive to the impacts of climate change, and to be home to strong, self reliant and balanced communities, with good access to the services they need.

The consultation will close on July 3. There is an online questionnaire at your.yorkshiredales.org.uk; email: your.dales@yorkshiredales.org.uk; by postcard response, from National Park Centres, authority offices, Tourist Information Centres and other outlets, or

on social media using #yourdales. The current management plan can be viewed online at: