Speaking at the National Parks Conference in Plymouth, Mr Meacher
One of the Governments main manifesto commitments was to establish an integrated transport policy. We intend to take a strategic, holistic approach to the provision of transport infrastructure and services. Clearly, while there are principles which can be applied nationally, different types of areas suffer different problems. The National Parks - as mainly remote areas, with low resident populations, but large numbers of visitors - require their own menu of choices.
We need to reduce the impact of transport on the air we breathe, on greenhouse gases, and on the environment generally. We are not anti-car. The car remains an integral part of modern society. It has brought freedom, flexibility and mobility, especially in rural areas.
But we need to strike a better balance with the alternatives.
Mr Meacher outlined some of the work already being done by National Parks to control the use of the car in the Parks and in the future including: a 40 mph speed limit across a wide central section of Dartmoor; and a North York Moors scheme on the Esk Valley rail line where the public can travel free on the Moorsbus network.
He added that some of the initiatives will be reflected in a Countryside Commission report on rural traffic experiments which Glenda Jackson will be launching soon.
Of course we need to do a lot more in the years ahead both to provide realistic alternatives to use of the car as well as to manage car use when it occurs. The experience of the National Park Authorities in the rural context will be valuable to us in reaching conclusions for our integrated transport White Paper.
Mr Meacher also commented on the consultation looking into the future arrangements for the South Downs. He said that the Countryside Commission is carrying out a consultation, at the Governments
request, into the future arrangements for the South Downs. One of the options which will be considered is a new National Park, although there are also other possibilities. The Countryside Commission will provide advice on whether a new National Park might be the most appropriate solution in any of the areas where greater protection may be needed.
The National Parks are a major recreational resource, which offer many ways in which people can enjoy different landscapes and terrains. We recognise that open air exercise makes avital
contribution to peoples health and to their sense of well-being, and the National Parks provide outstanding opportunities and beautiful settings for outdoor exercise of many kinds. We must all work to preserve them.
There are seven National Parks in England and three in Wales and receive 75% of their approved budgets from central government, and the remaining 25% from local authorities with land in the Parks.
Central government funding in 1997/98 amounts to£17.4 million in England and£6.5 million in Wales.