Prosperous Dartmoor - Key areas
Linking prosperity and protection
Within the National Park, the connection between economic development and the National Park's special qualities is an important one. The high quality environment is an important economic driver, with the quality of life being a key factor influencing people and businesses to locate on Dartmoor. It is important that economic prosperity is linked to protection of the National Park, to ensure that these benefits are maintained in future. However, this can also be seen as a deterrent; there were many comments during the consultation about National Park planning and policies being seen as a constraint to growth and investment.
Striking the right balance between protection of the qualities that make the National Park special and supporting appropriate economic development is therefore essential. Much of this comes down to how National Park policies are perceived and communicated, and a clear message is needed that 'Dartmoor is open for business' and that appropriate development which creates local jobs and is consistent with National Park planning policies is supported. Approval rates for planning permission in the National Park are already high, and encouragement of pre-application discussions with planners is also helping to ensure that proposals come forward which are appropriate within the National Park.
A strong message resulting from the consultation was the need for a strong business voice for greater Dartmoor, with enhanced partnerships working between the private and public sectors. The Dartmoor Partnership already exists to promote and support the tourism and trade industries in the National Park, but a wider forum is needed to include the rest of the business community. Important links are also being established with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which provides the opportunity for local businesses to inform and influence strategic thinking and funding, particularly in relation to rural growth and strategic infrastructure requirements. These business groupings also provide a route for communicating the message that 'Dartmoor is open for business'.
Boosting the green economy
Rather than being seen as a constraint, the high quality environment in the National Park is actually one of its greatest economic assets, and much can be done to boost the green economy on Dartmoor. Many of these opportunities involve further strengthening the relationship between tourism, land management, local produce and the built environment.
Building partnerships between the tourism and land-based sectors will help to increase visitor expenditure by capitalising on growth areas such as local food and drink, and improve incomes, reduce dependency on public support, and secure their long-term viability. It will also enhance the contribution of these sectors to the environment, economy and culture of the National Park.
One of the benefits of the diverse make-up of the local economy is the opportunity to strengthen local supply chains, which supports local businesses, employment, and the environment through reducing the miles goods and services have to travel. There is also potential to develop new or added value products from Dartmoor, such as the Moor Wool Initiative, and develop new markets which build on local strengths and the National Park brand, helping to sustain local businesses and the environment (see also The Future of Farming and Food priority).
Entrepreneurship and skills development
Dartmoor's economic profile already demonstrates significant levels of entrepreneurship, with high numbers of small businesses, social enterprises, home-based businesses and self-employment. It is important to support and retain successful and growing Dartmoor businesses across all sectors. Research has identified a number of sectors which have the potential to create significant employment growth (Dartmoor's Sector Outlooks - Final report to Dartmoor National Authority, SERIO Plymouth University 2013). These are:
- tourism and leisure (including bars and restaurants, sports and recreation, and accommodation);
- construction and property; and
- business services (including computer consultancy, management consultancy, and a range of other professional scientific and technical services).
The future success of these sectors will be driven by entrepreneurial people in competitive enterprises. While most of the factors influencing future growth are national or global, there are actions that can be considered locally, particularly in taking a more enabling stance to local business and addressing perceived barriers.
The importance of skills for future growth is recognised across all sectors, and the availability of staff with the right skills has frequently been identified as a key barrier to growth (Dartmoor's Sector Outlooks - Final report to Dartmoor National Authority, SERIO Plymouth University 2013). Particular gaps in skills identified include high quality customer service skills in the tourist sector to provide an improved visitor experience, and ICT skills in the business services sector.
Nationally, skills funding and provision is undergoing significant change, which will be important for how skills development is supported in future, and could present opportunities for local partners to shape skills provision to meet local needs. In particular, developing a range of volunteering, training and apprenticeship opportunities for young people and others in the National Park to gain skills, experience and qualifications in traditional skills, crafts and other trades linked to management of the National Park will help to support both employment and National Park purposes. This could help to build an economic advantage for local businesses, and encourage them to care for the local environment.
Infrastructure to support business development
The provision of appropriate infrastructure is a critical pre-requisite for economic growth. In particular, the roll out of super-fast broadband will support business development, including home-working, although there may need to be more bespoke provision for IT businesses (as one of the potential growth sectors) with more specialist requirements (Dartmoor's Sector Outlooks - Final report to Dartmoor National Authority, SERIO Plymouth University 2013).
Many businesses and communities across the National Park still have little or no access to high speed broadband – important for local enterprise and access to services across the National Park. Connecting Dartmoor aims to bring the advantages of high speed broadband to additional businesses and residents that are in the final 10% area and therefore fall beyond the reach of the main 'Connecting Devon and Somerset' programme.
There are also areas of Dartmoor which suffer from poor or no mobile phone reception, and opportunities to increase mobile coverage throughout the National Park will be supported, having regard to the socio-economic duty, where it does not harm the National Park's special qualities. Pre application advice will be provided by the National Park Authority to guide mobile phone operators to the most suitable sites, or to encourage opportunities for site sharing by making information available.
As connectivity and ease of access are also important business drivers, the maintenance and enhancement of rail services and other public transport provision will be important. In addition, there are opportunities to encourage more sustainable access to work through cycle links, for example, which will have multiple benefits in terms of the environment, health and reducing fuel bills.