Over forty Upper Eden businesses attended a Business Networking Event organised by the Upper Eden Future and Kirkby Stephen Town Forum groups in Kirkby Stephen on Thursday 19 January to discuss how the proposed National Park extension may bring economic opportunities to the area.
Upper Eden Future member Sir Martin Holdgate chaired the event at the King’s Arms in Kirkby Stephen. Speakers were Jack Ellerby of Friends of the Lake District, highlighting evidence that National Park status was good news for business, and Kyle Blue Orton Parish Chairman speaking on behalf of supportive businesses who could see their turnover increase by between 10 and 20%.
Sir Martin Holdgate said “There is no doubt that the proposed five extension areas meet the statutory tests for being in a National Park – outstanding natural beauty and great recreational opportunity. The consultations carried out over the last two years by Natural England have clearly shown that the vast majority of people support the park extensions. Some have perceived however that coming into a National Park would hold back their businesses, so we organised this event for business people to hear the facts for themselves.”
David Butterworth Chief Executive and Kathryn Beardmore Director of Park Services with the Dales National Park attended the meeting to hear everyone’s views and answer questions about how they work with the business community. They made it very clear that the ‘Yorkshire’ brand would not be imposed if the Dales National Park extends further into Cumbria and that the ‘Westmorland’ or ‘Eden’ identify would be fully recognised and protected by the Park Authority. Settle was quoted as an example of a town on the edge of the National Park that has capitalised on the strong ‘brand’ and from which Kirkby Stephen could learn lessons for its future economic regeneration.
Kyle Blue, Orton Parish Chairman, had carried out a survey of businesses in the Orton and Ravenstonedale area to gauge their views on National Park status. He said:
“The overwhelming majority of businesses, especially those with a visitor customer base, were highly supportive. Many of these businesses are also vital to the social well-being of our local village communities, such as pubs and village shops. They feel that the National Park brand will lift their prospects for growth in a very poor economic climate and create more jobs for local people.”
In conclusion, the meeting urged Cumbria’s County and District politicians to take notice of local businesses views and the growing membership of the Lakes to Dales Business Forum.