Park sponsorship scheme halted

8 Jun 00
Controversial plans to boost funding for conservation work in the Lake District including finding sponsors for mountain ranges such as the Helvellyn massif and lakes such as Windermere were stopped in their tracks this week.

09 June 2000

Proposals for a new fundraising strategy were outlined in a paper presented to the Lake District National Park Authority's administration and finance committee on June 5.

Under the plans large companies would have been sought to sponsor each of the main lakes and mountain ranges. In return for financial support – either for a specific project or to finance the national park's work in general – companies would have been allowed to use specific images within their own marketing material to boost their environmental credentials.

But the authority's members seem to have taken fright at the prospect of the Big Mac Bassenthwaite or Halfords Helvellyn. They rejected the proposals as they stand and called for more work to be done on how the schemes would work in practice. New proposals are expected later in the year.

Ian Brodie, director of the charity, Friends of the Lake District, warned the proposals could have caused the authority problems downstream. 'For instance, say a telecommunications company became a sponsor and then later wanted to erect masts in the park?' he asked.

He said he was satisfied that the national park 'would not sell planning permission'. But he added that the proposed sponsorship could create a perception that the authority's independence was being compromised.

Other proposals in the rejected paper included the introduction of a Lake District National Park Authority Visa card, sponsorship of individual rangers and the creation of a national park trust to receive personal donations. Just 5,000 'committed givers' each paying £15 a year would create an extra £75,000 for the authority.

'That could virtually double what we spend from our own funds on path conservation,' said Donald Connolly, chief administrative officer for the authority. But even this would make little impression on the estimated £5m needed to clear the park's backlog of path maintenance.

The park has set a fundraising target of £200,000 to help mark the Lake District authority's 50th anniversary next year. But hopes that the national parks in general will receive stable financial funding in the future now lie with the government's summer Spending Review.

Public Finance understands that the Countryside Agency has bid for an additional £10m for English national parks over three to four years, boosting the parks' approved expenditure by around 40%.


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