CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks are to go before a public inquiry.

Minister for the natural environment Richard Benyon said Natural England’s proposals to extend the boundaries of the two parks would be examined at a four-week inquiry in June, with a pre-inquiry meeting to be held in March.

Mr Benyon told MPs: “Over 3,000 objections, representations or expressions of support were received in response to the proposals, including objections from five local authorities.

“It is a statutory requirement that a public inquiry is held if at least one local authority with land in a proposed extension raises an objection to a relevant variation order.”

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: “It’s right that there should be an inquiry because the people affected should have their voices fully heard.

“This is a big decision that will affect the whole nature of how those communities are governed in the future in terms of planning and the environment.”

He added that he hoped the inquiry would be fully-funded, so as not to impact the good work of both authorities.

County Coun for the potentially affected Lyth Valley, Jim Bland, said he was pleased an inquiry was taking place, but that it was ‘inevitable’.

“It was just a matter of time,” he said. “I think it’s right that everybody gets to air their views. I personally never saw the logic in including the Lyth Valley, and it’s good that opinions such as that can be expressed at an inquiry.”

Following the inquiry the inspector will make recommendations to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who will decide whether to modify, approve or reject the plans.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park the recommended changes relate to an area of approximately 418 square kilometres in Cumbria and Lancashire, in and around