‘Democratic deficit’ to be addressed in National Park

DIRECT elections could be introduced to the authorities which run England’s national parks, including the South Downs, under a bill published in draft form as part of the Queen’s Speech.

Ministers said the move would improve local accountability and address a ‘democratic deficit’ in the areas protected by national park status.

Under the Draft Governance of National Parks (England) and the Broads Bill, the environment secretary would be given the power to order direct elections, enabling residents to vote for the first time for some of the members who have responsibility for the parks and make planning decisions.

The draft bill also allows parish councillors broader scope in choosing representatives from among residents rather than simply members of the council, and would allow local authorities more flexibility in appointing members.