Broads funding cut by £1m over the last five years but rising again by 2020
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015
Government funding for the Broads has been cut by £1m over the last five years, figures have revealed.
Despite government promises to protect funds for national parks in the coming years, they will be receiving significantly less in grants by 2020 than they were a decade earlier.
Funding in 2020 will be as much as a fifth below 2010 levels, a study by the Press Association found.
In 2010/11 the Broads got £4.2m in funding from the government but by 2015/16 this had dropped to £3.2m.
However, the Broads Authority (BA) said they were looking to the future and their grant was actually due to increase by 2020.
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In 2015, promises were made to protect national park funding, with a year-on-year increase of 1.72pc in the direct grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for most parks up to 2020.
And BA chief executive John Packman said the Chancellor's promise to protect funding in the November 2015 spending review meant 'for the Broads Authority this translates into a level of National Park Grant of £3,299,595 for next year rising to £3,414,078 in 2019/20.'
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The Campaign for National Parks said the cuts to English national park authorities since 2010 had an impact on services, with the Broads closing three out of six information centres,
Earlier this year ministers unveiled an eight-point plan to encourage school visits in England's national parks, double apprenticeships by 2020 and build annual visitor numbers to 100 million - up from 90 million now.
Mr Packham said this was what the BA were focussing on. He said: 'The combination of certainty over government funding and the recent end of the legal challenge over the use of the term Broads National Park when promoting the area, means that the Broads Authority is well placed to continue working with the local tourism business to encourage more visitors to learn and experience the special qualities of this wonderful area. A new tourism website promoting the Broads National Park is under development and will be launched in the spring.'
Jacquie Burgess, chairman of the BA, added: 'We are looking forward to the new year and the opportunities it presents us to market the Broads to a wider audience.'
However the Broads Society - a 'critical friend' to the Broads Authority (BA) - said they were worried about the figures.
Paul Rice, chairman, said: 'From the society's view point any cuts are not helpful at all, but how the money is spent is crucial.'
He said there would be an extra challenge with the UK's upcoming exit from the European Union, as the Broads receives grants from Europe also.
'I think the society would look at helping any organisation interested in protecting the Broads, possibly looking at sponsorship. My concern is the money has to be found from somewhere.'
Campaign for National Parks chief executive, Fiona Howie, said the national parks were created to recognise and protect the beautiful areas rich in wildlife and culture, and the organisation welcomed the Government's aspiration for more people to benefit from them.
But she said: 'Whilst it is positive that the government want more people to visit the parks we must be aware that large numbers of visitors do have implications for those who manage the parks.'
An obvious example was footpath repairs, which could cost between £100 and £160 a metre, and much more if a helicopter was needed to bring material to hard-to-access sites.
'If we want the parks to inspire current and future generations we need to make sure they receive the resources necessary for them to be maintained and, ideally, enhanced,' she said.
Country Land and Business Association East Rural Surveyor Claire Wright said: 'Our national parks in England and Wales are visited and enjoyed by millions of people and generate more than £4billion per year in visitor spend, a major contribution to the rural tourism economy.
'However, tourist information services in the parks have been badly affected by year-on-year budget cuts and the maintenance of these beloved landscapes through generations of careful land management also comes at a cost. Without vital tourism to keep the rural economy thriving, the future of our national parks is uncertain.
'Although Defra has pledged funding up to 2020, after this date it is unclear what will happen due to the loss of important European funding as a result of Brexit. To guarantee the future of national parks it is crucial the Government acknowledges the major economic role they play in the overall economy and commits to support these precious landscapes without further budget cuts.'