AN AMBITIOUS plan to make the Cotswolds into the UK’s newest national park is leading to questions about how big it should be, and how it could benefit locals.

The Cotswolds was named as a leading candidate to become a national park in a report to the government published on September 21.

The current Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers approximately 2,038sq km (786sq miles) across Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

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The Glover report, which is currently being considered by Defra, is a review into protected landscapes across the UK, including national parks and AONBs.

David Drew, the Labour MP for Stroud, has championed the new park but said the whole Cotswolds AONB was too large to be a manageable national park.

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Mr Drew said: “The boundaries of the AONBs are probably so widespread that you are taking in a huge area.

“We would be by far the biggest national park so I do think we need to look sensibly about what should be in it and what shouldn’t be in it, but again that should be discussed.

“The main thing is the Cotswolds should be accessible to people from all manner of large urban spaces, Birmingham, Bristol, Bath, and so on.”

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He added there should be a public debate about which areas of the current Cotswolds AONB should be included in the new park.

Meanwhile, West Oxfordshire District Council Leader James Mills has raised concerns about how the plans would affect people living and working in the district.

Mr Mills was especially concerned about the effect the Cotswolds National Park would have on house prices in West Oxfordshire.

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He said: “The main concern I have is for local house prices because research shows the average cost of a house in a national park is 12 times that average cost across England and Wales.

“People who want to live and work locally might find it difficult.”

He cited a 2018 report by Lloyds Bank, which said buying a home in a national park cost an extra £121,000 on average.

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National park status would allow the Cotswolds access to more funding than it currently has as an AONB.

Mr Mills added: “I know from having met with Costwolds AONB that one of the problems they feel they have is underfunding, and perhaps that is one of the answers, or for the government to give them more money rather than have a national park.”

The Chilterns AONB which covers much of South Oxfordshire was also named in the Glover report as candidate to become a national park.

Mr Mills said he was surprised the report only mentioned the planned Oxford-Cambridge arc in reference to the Chilterns, and not in relation to the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.

Plans for a Cotswolds National Park were set out earlier this year in the Cotswolds Conservation Board’s management report 2018-23. One of four key ambitions was 'to promote the case for the Cotswolds being designated as England’s next National Park'.