ARC News Service

FARMERS could be facing a huge adverse economic shock, members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority have heard.

The risk is so great that they agreed unanimously at a recent full council meeting that the Authority’s working group on the Future of Farming and Land Management in the Yorkshire Dales National Park should continue.

Ian McPherson, the authority’s member champion for the Natural Environment who has chaired the working group since its inception in June 2017, told the meeting: “We began to realise that the future of farming was probably the single most important issue facing the Authority at this time.”

He pointed out that the Authority’s head of conservation and community, Gary Smith, had warned that farmers were entering an even deeper state of turmoil during this period of political uncertainty.

“The situation is changing from day to day,” said Mr McPherson.

He said the working group, which includes farmers, should have the widest possible remit so that it could keep abreast of changing circumstances

Recently retired farmer, Richmondshire District councillor John Amsden, reminded the members that it was the farmers in the national park who managed the land, not the authority.

“It's hard work and a lot of them are tenant farmers," he said. "They are working seven days a week, long hours and are often lonely as in a lot of cases the farms are one-man bands.”

He therefore suggested that Dales farmers should be paid £25,000 to £30,000 a year to manage the countryside.

North Yorkshire County councillor Robert Heseltine commented that one in six of all jobs in the Yorkshire Dales were connected with farming “That’s a lot of families who rely on farming," he said.

Dales farmer and the authority’s member champion for sustainable development, Chris Clark, told the meeting: “The adverse economic shock is a huge reality for this athority.”

He warned that the economic viability of farms must be kept in mind when considering policies that have nature and climate change at their heart and added: “There’s no point in having ‘pay by results’ unless this includes the viability of the farms.”

The members had already voted unanimously to declare a "Climate Emergency”.

Mr Smith reported that the authority had reduced its own greenhouse gas emissions by 62 per cent and had directly funded projects in the National Park that were removing around 500,000kg of carbon dioxide emissions each year through planting trees and peat restoration.

He said the aAuthority has effectively been ‘net zero carbon’ since 2013.

“By next year it is likely that we will be sequestering twice the amount of greenhouse gas emissions than we will be emitting,” he said.

The importance of planting trees was also emphasised by the Authority’s head of Ranger services Alan Hulme during his report on the impact of the flash floods which hit Langthwaite and Lower Swaledale on July 30.

About three and a half kilometres of rights of way had been either washed away or covered by landslides and debris, he reported. In addition, 16 bridges had been lost, 11 of which were on rights of way, as well as several footbridges.

He told members: “The bridges are our big loss. It will probably take about two years (to repair them). The cost to us, we think, will be about £600,000 to restore rights of way."

Richmondshire District councillor Stuart Parsons hoped that money would continue to be available for several years through some form of long-term sustainability fund.

“It will take years to repair the damage,” he said.