The CLA in the North has welcomed calls for National Parks England to play a greater role in growing the economy.
Although best known for the beauty of their landscapes, the parks also contain around 22,500 businesses, with which the National Park Authorities (NPAs) are keen to work, ensuring they flourish in the long-term.
As part of the plan, they have offered to join forces with Local Enterprise Partnerships, helping deliver sustainable economic expansion through a series of initiatives.
The move has already gained the backing Lord Heseltine - a champion of the devolution agenda - and Defra Minister Lord de Mauley, among others.
CLA North director of policy & public affairs Douglas Chalmers said: “We have always maintained that the North’s National Parks should encourage economic activity and ensure that these vitally important environments benefit a wider section of the local population.
“Any move that helps to deliver sustainable economic growth across large areas of our remoter North is to be welcomed.”
He added that he was excited to see the LEPs being challenged to invest in smaller rural businesses.
“These smaller businesses have minimal environmental impact but help create additional, better paid jobs at a time when our National Parks are losing people - not just the young, but those in their 30s and 40s who should be in employment, securing communities for future generations,” he said.
Around 90m people visit England’s National Parks every year, spending more than £4bn - a third of all rural tourism spend in the country - and supporting 68,000 full-time-equivalent jobs.
In total, the parks generate up to £6.3bn GVA, equivalent to that of the UK aerospace industry.
The NPAs now want to work with the LEPs to:
* Create more high quality jobs in some of the country’s most remote rural areas
* Make National Parks even better places to do business in through improved infrastructure like broadband, as well as skills development, and
* Use the National Parks’ picturesque landscapes to enhance people’s quality of life and attract new businesses.
Chairman of National Parks England, Jim Bailey, said: “I’ll be pleased if this initiative raises a few eyebrows from those who think the National Parks are something stuck in a bygone era.
“We need to make more of the thriving businesses found in some of our most beautiful areas of countryside. As well as being hugely important for supporting the health of the nation, our National Parks attract exciting entrepreneurs and support the rural economy. We need to protect these wonderful places.
“But that need not be at the expense of giving a strong helping hand to enterprises that rely on a high quality environment for their business model. Our message is National Parks are open for business.”
Lord Heseltine said: “National Parks are huge national assets that the public value. They are beautiful places where the environment underpins large swathes of the rural economy.
“I welcome the lead being taken by National Parks in working alongside Local Enterprise Partnerships and local businesses to enhance the nation’s wealth.
“Delivering high quality jobs, prosperity, and a high quality environment together is a Government priority. So I welcome this closer working to support our rural communities.”