Public divided over calls for Shropshire Hills to become a national park
National Park status would bring a welcome boost to tourism and the economy in south Shropshire, supporters have insisted.
Calls for the county to bid for the status, held by the likes of the Lake District, Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons, were weighed up at a public meeting last night.
The Shropshire Hills is currently an Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB), which imposes certain restrictions on development to protect the landscape.
Upgrading the area to National Park status would see the creation of a new authority to regulate land use in the area. It would give the area the highest status of protection regarding landscape and scenic beauty.
Councillor Andy Boddington, who represents Ludlow North, said there was a strong case for the region to be upgraded to a National Park, which would impose strict planning restrictions and raise its profile.
Speaking at the meeting at Elim Church, he said: “Nobody ever went on holiday to an AONB, but you do go on holiday to a National Park. It has a status that is very different.
"In theory planning protection is the same but in practise it isn’t really.
“The upside I think is that it will make the area more attractive and make our economy more robust. It will give greater status and greater identity.”
But others raised concerns that the heightened status would lead to an influx of tourism which could have a negative impact on the environment.
The proposed National Park would stretch beyond the existing AONB, encompassing Ironbridge and Mortimer Forest.
The Government is currently reviewing its designated landscapes, including a consultation on whether there should be any additions to the 13 existing national parks in England and Wales. The review is being led by the writer Julian Glover, and people have until December 18 to express their views.
However Shropshire Council currently has no plans to submit such a bid.