A new nuclear power station planned for Cumbria is one of the schemes flagged up by campaigners calling on the Government to do more to protect England’s national parks.

A new report says that the Moorside plan and associated pylons would impact on the Lake District National Park, and may affect its bid for World Heritage Site status.

The Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the National Trust have commissioned the research which they say shows that short-term economic priorities are resulting inappropriate developments in national parks.

Conducted by Sheffield Hallam University, the study looked at national policy to restrict “major development” in national parks.

It found that interpretations of major development vary between areas, and planning decisions often reflect the Government “mood” at the time, with policy changes that lean toward economic growth rather than environmental protection.

Major developments can include mines, wind farms and large-scale housing developments.

Policy states that these should be refused unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.

The Moorside nuclear develepoment is on the list of current threats.

It states: “The Lake District National Park is currently bidding for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

“A planned nuclear power station and linked electricity pylons would impact the setting of the park, and while it is currently proposed to underground power lines within the park itself, this is still subject to final approval.”

Others include threats include fracking to parks across England, increased quarrying activity in the Yorkshire Dales and applications to widen roads in the South Downs and the Peak District.

Ruth Bradshaw, policy and research manager at the Campaign for National Parks said: “It is essential the Government confirms that protecting our national parks from inappropriate, damaging development remains a national priority. These assets must be protected and enhanced for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.”

Researchers interviewed National Park Authority planners across the country and examined the decisions on 70 planning applications for major development in, and in the setting of, national parks.

Emma Marrington, senior rural policy campaigner at CPRE, said: “National parks should have the highest level of planning protection, but in practice this can be overridden in the interests of short term economic gain.

“Our research has shown that national planning guidance should be improved so that when developments are considered, public bodies and developers give due regard to the importance of national parks.

“These are the ‘jewels in the crown’ of the English landscape.

“We should not allow major development to damage national parks irreparably.”

The three groups have now published a set of recommendations based on the findings of the report.

They are:

That the Government reconfirm its commitment to national parks in the forthcoming 25-year plan for the environment by clearly stating how they will ensure their long-term protection and enhancement. It is also essential that protections for nature are maintained after the UK leaves the European Union;

That National Park Authorities develop local plan policies that set out clearly how the protection against major development should be applied in their national park;

That Natural England take a more active role in ensuring that national parks are effectively protected from major development. This should include producing an annual update setting out how the major development test is being implemented and providing guidance or training for National Park Authorities to address any issues identified.

Ingrid Samuel, historic environment director at the National Trust, added, “Dealing with major development pressures has always been one of the central challenges for our national parks, and we know further challenges lie ahead.

“As the Government considers the UK’s exit from the European Union, it will want to ensure we are competitive.

“But we think it should also focus on our natural and cultural heritage, which, as well as being much loved by people across the country, is one of our greatest capital assets. Our national parks help make us distinctive and globally attractive as a nation.”