DEFRA consultation on direct elections to National Parks

In July 2008 DEFRA (Dept for Environment Food & Rural Affairs) issued a consultation paper on Direct Elections to National Parks. In his response, Tom Greeves, Chairman of The Dartmoor Society, wrote:

“Since our inception we have expressed concern about the ‘democratic deficit’ of Dartmoor National Park Authority, and are aware of widespread dissatisfaction with the current system [see, for example, Appendix A p.25 in Rural South Devon and Dartmoor Unitary Authority – Putting Our Rural Communities First (South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council, 11 April 2008)].

We believe it is unacceptable in 2009 that the eligible electorate of 33,500 residents of Dartmoor National Park are not able to go to a polling booth and vote for a candidate who is putting himself or herself forward to represent them on the National Park Authority. We consider this a ‘black hole’ in the English system of democracy and quite intolerable, given the importance to the local community of the decisions (especially regarding development control) made by the national park authority.

We therefore strongly support the principle of direct elections to national park authorities. We believe that all members, other than Secretary of State appointees, should be directly elected. These elections should include the present parish council members.

We feel that the national park authority should remain at approximately its present size, but would not object to a small increase in numbers of members.

We feel that direct elections would give a legitimacy to, and ‘ownership’ of, the decision-making process which is not felt by the wider community at the moment.

We do not feel that the status of the Secretary of State appointees would be compromised by direct elections of other members.”

Tom Greeves