NEW native woodland has been created in the Yorkshire Dales at an even greater scale than hoped for and 'massive investment' has enhanced the National Park.

Water quality has improved in Dales rivers, and areas such as Upper Ribblesdale and Swaledale have benefitted from investment.

These are some of the findings of the annual report of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Management Plan 2019-24 (NPMP), published this week.

It highlights progress on broadband infrastructure, achieving International Dark Sky Reserve status and making more pathways accessible to all.

The plan's objective to create 450 hectares of new native woodland in the National Park between 2018 and 2024 has already been exceeded, the report says.

And the National Lottery-funded Tees-Swale: Naturally Connected programme had just started to bring ‘massive new investment’ to Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.

The completion of the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership scheme – known as Stories in Stone – was noted as another important achievement.

Over five years, the programme provided grants worth almost £1.7m to 170 individual projects, covering wildlife, cultural heritage, access improvements, and benefits to the local economy.

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The Environment Agency reported that 62 per cent of rivers in the Yorkshire Dales National Park were assessed to be in good ecological status in the past year, up from 47 per cent in 2017.

And since 2009, millions of pounds worth of grants had been provided through Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative to farmers to carry out work to reduce diffuse pollution.

Chair of the NPMP Steering Group, David Sharrod, who is Chief Executive Officer of Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, said: “Overall there has been really encouraging progress on many of the National Park Management Plan objectives, despite the impact of the coronavirus epidemic and the restrictions that have come along with that.

"The management plan is about bringing together everyone working in the National Park – organisations and individuals.

"Woodland creation is the big story at the moment and the success in exceeding what was an ambitious objective is down to a range of partners, not least Natural England, the Forestry Commission, YDMT and individual landowners.

"The completion of the Stories in Stone scheme is also a cause for celebration, as many great projects – such as the restoration of the Swarth Moor SSSI – have been made possible by it.

"There have been some challenges in the past year.

"The coronavirus epidemic has knocked us back in a few areas, such as activity days for under represented groups and volunteer days, and we have also yet to see any real improvement in the condition of the most important habitats in the National Park.

"It also has to be acknowledged that although the progress on water quality and on peatland restoration is remarkable, the scale of the task ahead is absolutely huge.”