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Annual Report 2019-2020

Sunset at Boulby Cliffs from CowbarSunset at Boulby Cliffs from Cowbar

From its response to the ambitious Landscape Review, to the 50th anniversary celebration of one of the nation’s most popular National Trails – the North York Moors National Park Authority has achieved and taken action on many things over the last year.

Covering the period between April 2019 to March 2020, the Annual Report looks back on the key actions, accomplishments and challenges the Authority has faced, as well as looking to the future.

Reflections on the Landscape Review

Sunset at coast Robin Hood's Bay from Ravenscar - credit Ebor ImagesOne of the significant actions taken by the Authority during this period was its response to the Government’s review of protected areas, which included all English National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Report was published in September 2019 and in March 2020 the Authority provided a formal response to the findings; it is hoped the Government will take this into account in their response to the review.

Overall, the Authority welcomed many of the ambitions raised within the report, such as the need for protected spaces to do more for wildlife and to take a lead role in the fight against the climate crisis. However, the Authority also anticipated serious difficulties with some of the proposed methods to realise these ambitions, which, among others, included the erosion of the independence of the National Park Authority (NPA) via a statutory National Landscape Service and the ‘impractical and unnecessary’ proposals suggested for planning. Such recommendations would, in the Authority’s words, ‘significantly undermine’ its work.

In response to the report’s central message, that National Parks should be doing more and be more different from the rest of the country, it stated: “…legislation, spending and often policy within the National Parks are essentially the same as legislation, spending and policy outside them. As long as these factors remain the same, there is unlikely to be a really significant difference in what NPAs do or the environmental quality of the National Parks compared with the land outside them.”

Upon completion, the Authority forwarded its response to representatives of Defra, Julian Glover and a broad range of other environmental and non-environmental bodies and individuals. To read the response in full, go to the Reflections on the Landscapes Review document on the Authority’s website.

Royal visit for Cleveland Way 50th

HRH Princess Anne on Visit to North York Moors

The Cleveland Way is one of the nation’s most treasured National Trails, and in recognition of its 50th anniversary, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal attended a very special celebration organised by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council (RCBC).

In July 2019, Princess Anne visited the world's oldest lifeboat, The Zetland, in Redcar before going on to Saltburn to celebrate 50 years of the Cleveland Way. There she met volunteers and user groups plus representatives from the North York Moors National Park Authority, Natural England and RCBC who help promote and maintain the trail.  The Princess Royal also unveiled a new Cleveland Way signpost, now sited in Saltburn Valley Gardens.

Plenty of other events and activities also took place throughout 2019 to celebrate the anniversary. This included the official anniversary event on 24 May, which was the same date the trail opened 50 years ago. More than 100 walkers attended as they retraced the steps of the early walkers by striding out along a three-mile stretch of the trail, aptly known as the Pilgrim’s Walk, from YHA Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey. Leading the group were three apprentices kitted out in 1960s walking gear, including thick socks, knitted vests and flat caps, which in itself brought a great deal of publicity.

Other events included dedicated exhibitions at the Inspired by... gallery and several walking festivals exploring bite-size sections of the trail.

The Cleveland Way was officially launched in May 1969, following almost two decades of planning, and has previously been voted as the nation's favourite National Trail.

Start of COVID-19

Covid 19 Messages

As the UK felt the growing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the Authority responded swiftly to all guidelines put forward by the Government. In mid-March 2020, the Authority closed car parks, toilets and both National Park Centres, and continued to monitor any changes in Government guidance that would lead to reopening these. Alterations were also made to ensure the Authority’s planning service could continue, including the introduction of a virtual planning committee.

It was also in March 2020 that the Authority urged land managers to temporarily stop controlled burns within the National Park to help ease pressure on the emergency services.

From what followed, the Authority significantly increased all forms of communications with the public to ensure accurate messaging regarding access into and around the National Park, for which it was commended. The Authority also took various steps to ensure staff and volunteer safety, which included homeworking and the postponement of volunteer activities.

Looking back

Montage for Looking Back

The Authority submitted its draft Local Plan to Government in July 2019 for independent examination by a Planning Inspector. The examination took place in November 2019 and, subject to some minor modifications, the Inspector declared it ‘sound’ in March 2020.

The Authority and partners put together a questionnaire in January 2020 giving farmers and land managers from the National Park the opportunity to have their say on Defra’s proposed Environmental Land Management scheme. The questionnaire was widely publicised and received hundreds of responses.

As part of our innovative schools and outreach programme, our education team made contact with 18,559 students for the 2018/2019 academic year - an increase of 500 on the previous year.

At the annual UK National Parks Volunteer Awards in November 2019, Voluntary Ranger David Bream received the Individual Award following six years of dedicated volunteering. The event was sponsored by Columbia Sportswear.

Our Young Ranger programme proved so popular that in November 2019 another group was set up to help more young people engage with the National Park.

The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project received an £8,000 boost following a series of high-profile fundraisers during 2019, which included a silent art auction and an eBay sale of over 30 ‘doodle-a-dove’ sketches created by a range of celebrities including Chris Packham and Claudia Winkleman. The project is funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Authority and other partners.

In December 2019, we were awarded Stage 2 National Lottery Heritage Funding for their Explorer Club and Young Ranger schemes. The project is for three years and will expand and develop both initiatives.

By December 2019, building conservation work, as part of the Authority-led National Lottery Heritage Funded Land of Iron Landscape Partnership was completed. Work to sites such as Rosedale Bank Top, Rosedale East Iron Kilns and Warren Moor Mine improved the structures’ stability and public safety in a number of ways. Work was also completed on the Rosedale Railway path as well as drainage improvement between Dale Head and Reeking Gill.

In Autumn 2019, we received strong praise after we launched a new Tramper scheme at Sutton Bank National Park Centre and the National Trust’s Ravenscar Visitor Centre. The electric all-terrain mobility scooters, otherwise known as ‘trampers’, are designed to cover rough terrain allowing visitors with limited or poor mobility to explore the landscape.

On 17 January 2020, we received a grant offer from the Rural Payments Agency for funding towards the ‘The Gateway to the Moors’ Sutton Bank project that was submitted last year. The project will create a new family cycle trail, cyclocross track, pump track, 50 additional car park spaces and a building that will double up as a Nature Hub and Dark Sky Observatory. The project costs are £711,000 with a grant award of £702,393 from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

In January 2020, following a comprehensive tendering process, we granted Deep Beat Entertainment Ltd the license for the cafés at both National Park Centres, the first time this has occurred. Following a major revamp, the newly named Park Life Cafés reopened their doors in February 2020 offering a new, contemporary setting for visitors to eat and relax whilst out exploring the North York Moors.

In early 2020 the results of two reviews, carried out by a company called Value Added (VA) in 2012 and 2018, showed that the Authority was arguably one of the most cost-effective planning services of all the UK National Parks.

In December 2019, the North York Moors National Park Trust and the Authority teamed up to offer a limited run of gifts to raise awareness around the importance of planting trees. Fifty decorative, wood-turned trees were created with each one selling out before Christmas. Fifty oak trees, all grown from local acorns, were then planted in February 2020 on the National Park’s Levisham Estate as a result of the scheme.

Our Inspired by… gallery hosted the hugely popular The Lost Words exhibition over summer 2019, on tour from Compton Verney. During the exhibition, a series of events linked to The Lost Words were held, including workshops, talks, activities for all the family and a poetry competition. The Lost Words is a book by renowned nature writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris.

In March 2020, 24 affordable homes approved by the Authority were completed in Helmsley. This comprised of 13 one - bed flats/maisonettes and 11 two bed houses. These homes are for social rent (13 flats, and five two bed houses) or Discount for Sale (six two bed houses), sold directly to purchasers by the developer, with allocations managed by Ryedale District Council.

In March 2020, Sirius Minerals, who owned the Woodsmith polyhalite mine near Whitby, was bought out by Anglo American plc for £405m. Members of the Authority granted permission for the construction of the mine in 2015 subject to 95 planning conditions and related legal agreements setting out a range of requirements for additional mitigation and environmental compensation measures.

The highly successful joint National Parks Dark Skies Festival returned in February 2020 for 17 days of night-time discovery through events, talks and workshops. The 2020 programme was its largest to date with over 140 events across the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales, featuring high profile speakers and more businesses involved in hosting and delivering events.

By March 2020, the Authority-led Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, successfully achieved a variety of its objectives to revitalize the natural and cultural heritage of the River Rye catchment. This included the commencement of seven Conservation Agreements, three Conservation Woodland Agreements and one Veteran Tree Agreement, all of which focus on improving water quality, slowing the flow of water and creating better quality and more connected habitats to benefit both wildlife and our local communities. Community engagement also featured heavily, including a successful community tree planting day in February 2020 where over 300 trees were planted by team of 20 adjacent to the River Seph. Unfortunately, COVID-19 forced the postponement of the official Ryevitalise launch event, but plans are in place to run plenty of Ryevitalise events in the future

Looking forward

Montage for Looking Forward

  • In light of COVID-19, the Authority will propose a new budget for the 2020/21 financial year. This new budget proposal will seek to mitigate the detrimental impact on income as a result of COVID-19, as well as incorporating a Rural Recovery Fund to help finance new strategies in dealing with the local consequences of the pandemic.
  • The Rural Recovery Fund will include grants for local individuals, businesses and organisations, the development of a Recreation and Engagement Strategy, increased opportunities for young people and various measures to facilitate social recovery.
  • The Authority will increase its efforts to address local issues and pressures that will arise once COVID-19 restrictions ease. This will include an increase in staff presence across the National Park and an increase in communications with the public.
  • After being declared ‘sound’ by the Planning Inspector, the Local Plan will be adopted by the Authority from 27 July 2020. This will form the basis for deciding all planning applications. It replaces policies set out in the 2008 Core Strategy and Development Policies document.
  • Results from the Authority’s questionnaire on Defra’s proposed Environmental Land Management scheme will be released in summer 2020. The results will enable the Authority to identify which environmental benefits farmers and land managers within the National Park want to deliver. An economic tool to measure the potential impacts of the proposed scheme will also be devised by the Authority.
  • In September, the Authority will welcome its new Chief Executive, Tom Hind. Tom brings with him a strong track record of leadership and strategy development and a personal commitment to outdoor recreation and nature. He will replace Andy Wilson who retired in July 2020 after 20 years at the helm.
  • A new BBC Two documentary on the ‘wild and remote’ North York Moors will air in July 2020. North York Moors: A Wild Year will show an intimate portrayal of one of England’s most cherished landscapes.
  • In June 2020, results from the latest turtle dove surveys will be released.
  • In July 2020, the Authority plans to launch an award designed to help families discover and explore wild places. The National Park’s Family John Muir Award is anticipated to be a great way to spend some time with the kids during the summer, whether at home or in the North York Moors.
  • Results from the 2019 moorland wader population survey will be released in August 2020. This will be the Authority’s fifth census of wader populations across moorland areas of the National Park, which it has been carrying out since 1996.
  • Deciduous woodland creation projects totalling 105 hectares are in the pipeline for 2020/21, with a possible 72 hectares already planned for 2021/22.
  • Over the next two years the Authority, in partnership with stakeholders and with the support of local communities, businesses and experts, will be working on a new Management Plan to ensure the National Park is cared for and enjoyed by all. This is a process that the Authority takes every five years by setting out what priorities and actions need to be taken by the Authority and others with a stake in the future of the North York Moors.
  • Plans are in place to rearrange many of the Authority’s events that were cancelled as a result of coronavirus. This includes the Wood Life Festival and many of the exhibitions at the Inspired by… gallery.
  • In September 2020, the Authority will submit its application to the International Dark-Sky Association for the National Park to become a designated International Dark Sky Reserve.
  • As part of the Authority-led Land of Iron Landscape Partnership, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, further building conservation work will be undertaken to the three bridges on the Rail Trail near Beck Hole. The project team will also look to complete an archive of all the work that has been carried out as well as a variety of online resources – this will then be hosted at the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum.
  • As a result of COVID-19, the Authority-led Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will adjust its methods of working to continue to meet some of its main objectives. This includes liaising with land managers for the continuation of Conservation and Woodland Agreements and the launch of the Lidar Landscape home-based volunteering initiative – all of which can be carried out in line with the latest social distancing measures. In June 2020, the project will also benefit from a £10,000 grant from the energy bar brand, CLIF, to support its Small and Tall; the Rye’s Bats and Ancient Trees project. Behind the scenes a large landscape scale Citizen Science bat monitoring project is also being developed and plans to launch in spring 2021. As restrictions continue to ease the team are also looking to rearrange some of the work that was delayed as a result of COVID-19.

Judging our performance

We set high standards of customer service and performance that are monitored through a variety of measures – including those set out below.

FunctionIndicator Result 2019/20Comments
Providing an excellent service Amount spent on grants to individuals, communities and businesses in the Park £351,606 The Authority continues to be strongly committed to offering grants for conservation and community initiatives
Footpaths and other public rights of way that are 'easy to use' 85% Figures are from surveys carried out in November 2018 and May 2019
Running an efficient and effective organisation Planning applications determined in a timely manner 81% A strong performance in latter part of year meant target of 80% was exceeded
Number of free public toilets supported by NPA 16 Includes eight public toilets in NPA car parks/National Park Centres and financial support towards a further eight
Number of volunteer days provided 15,011 The target is to reach 23,000 volunteer days per year by 2021
Costs of Corporate Services as a % of gross costs 4% This meets the Authority's target of 5%
Phone/email answering by a real person The Authority continues to answer all phone calls in person during office hours
Invoices paid within 30 days 99.38% Target 100%
Planning appeals won 66% Based on only 6 appeals

Actual 2019/20

Between April 2019 and March 2020 the Authority spent £8.48 million.

About half of this income came from Government with additional funding from external partners such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Natural England, The Environment Agency, Historic England, Yorkshire Water and the David Ross Foundation.

The Authority also receives money from Section 106 planning agreements, particularly the one associated with the Woodsmith Polyhalite Mine, and earn additional income from fees and charges.

Percentage breakdown of expenditure

Judging our performance