Thursday, November 08, 2018

Should South Shropshire be a national park?

The idea that South Shropshire should be a national park seems to be gaining momentum.

The Shropshire Star reports that the man tasked by Michael Gove with look at whether any new parks should be created, thinks so.

Julian Glover, a former speechwriter for David Cameron and the first person to commission me to write for the Guardian, says:
"I know Shropshire very well. 
"I partly grew up in the Shropshire Hills, and they are as beautiful as anywhere in a national park."
Indeed they are. Someone once described them to me as being like the Lake District without all the visitors.

Andy Boddington, the Lib Dem councillor from Ludlow, also supports the idea.

He writes on his blog:
We live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. We have so much beauty surrounding us that we often forget its there. It is ordinary to us but astonishing to people who come here. 
My view is that national park will be beneficial for South Shropshire. It will promote the economy. But there could be downsides like too many visitors or rising house price. There could be upsides like more affordable housing. More businesses within and around the national park.
And he concludes:
My view is that we should at that point submit a bid for national park status. 
A national park that stretches from Ironbridge to the Mortimer Forest. Embracing the Titterstone Clee, the Long Mynd, the Stiperstones, Bishop’s Castle and Clun.
He urges people in the county to attend a debate organised by the Shropshire Council's Ludlow and Clee local joint committee on 29 November.

I welcome the idea, but I can think at once of a couple of problems that need to be tackled if it is to be a success.

The first is affordable housing. When I discovered the county more than 30 years ago I used to wonder at how cheap houses were. Then the weekending classes discovered the restaurants of Ludlow and everything changed.

Two years ago it was announced that Hope primary school near the Stiperstones was to close. Heather Kidd, the Lib Dem councillor for the ward, saw no alternative because young families cannot could to move to the area - see her comment on that post too.

The second issue is bus services, which being cut in Shropshire just as they are everywhere else.

The Secret Hills shuttle bus that runs at weekends is a shadow of what it was a few years ago, when you could use it to reach Bishop's Castle, Clun and Much Wenlock.

And the bus from Shrewsbury to Bishop's Castle is under threat of withdrawal.

I support the idea of giving my favourite landscape national park status, but unless something is done about these and other issues in the area, I am not sure how much it will really achieve.

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