The Chiltern Society was invited to participate in the annual Student Leadership Conference that was held at Sir William Borlase Grammar School in Marlow earlier this month. Students from 21 local school were invited to attend the conference that this year focussed on the subject of the environment.
Given recent reports in the media that local MP, the Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan MP, is keen to see the Chilterns achieve designated National Park status, we thought this would make an interesting topic of conversation and debate for the students. Whilst becoming a National Park immediately sounds like a very positive proposal, this is not necessarily a clear cut issue and many factors ought to be considered. The Chilterns already has a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), so how would National Park status change the status quo? As young Chilterns Champions, these students were asked to consider if they would support or oppose the National Park proposal. Some very well thought and valid arguments were put forward by students on both sides of the debate, as outlined below:
YES, THE CHILTERNS SHOULD BE A NATIONAL PARK
More protection for the local environment and wildlife
Would bring a boost to the economy with increased tourism
Likely to create more jobs in tourism
Much bigger budgets and resources to conserve the natural environment
Preserves local culture and heritage
Far greater control over planning matters
It would better preserve the area for future generations to enjoy
NO, THE CHILTERNS SHOULD NOT BE A NATIONAL PARK
Would tourism result in overcrowding? Could our infrastructure cope with the number of tourists?
Would an influx of visitors damage the natural environment?
House prices will rise and young people will be pushed further out of the market
More affordable housing is needed. There is already a housing shortage and this could make that worse!
The money could be better spent on something else
AONB status already offers the area ample protection without being too rigid
If there are too many National Parks, the status loses its significance
Students were divided 50:50 as to whether or not they would like to see the Chilterns awarded National Park status. This was a great exercise in engaging with young, local people, and getting them to think about the countryside and it’s future. The National Park issue is one that we will continue to discuss.