THE Lake District National Park Authority has set up a large partnership committee, a woolly mammoth that will consider whether a scheme of managed regulation of recreational 4x4 vehicles in the Tilberthwaite and Little Langdale areas is “sustainable”.

This cumbersome approach to resolving the 4x4 issue seems to have come about because the authority has long been set on an administrative approach to national park problems. Administration does not aim at the greatest good of the greatest number or at sensitive discrimination and critical judgment. It aims at treating all components of a problem as equal in the sight of the administrators.

The snag is that the founding principles of national parks and the values that attach to them don’t rest on this basis. The act of setting up national parks was a radical act of discrimination by the nation. The legislators said explicitly: this area of land is special, distinctive. It cannot be judged or treated in the way we treat countryside more generally. It is landscape and diverse human cultural activity raised, to use a maths analogy, to a higher power.

So when DEFRA talks of recreation in national parks and of the parks' “special qualities” in its guidance to park authorities, it links these to “a focus on quiet outdoor countryside recreation, associated with the wide open spaces, wildness and tranquillity” to be found in these areas. It adds - in the context of the 1949 National Parks Act - that “in many cases a level of recreational vehicular use that may be acceptable in other areas will be inappropriate within National Parks and incompatible with their purposes”.

These words are worth considering as the woolly mammoth lumbers onto the scene in the New Year.

Peter Wood