Despite Sheffield’s past reputation as a gloomy, dirty industrial city, mercifully no more, it has always enjoyed close proximity to open countryside.
I surprise people in the rest of the country when I tell them that a large proportion of the city lies within the Peak District, designated Britain’s first national park in 1951.
Look at this map, and you’ll see, with the green-shaded area, that a third of the city lies within the park, divided between two planning authorities, Sheffield City Council and the Peak District National Park Authority which covers the western area.
As well as Yorkshire, the park also reaches into four other counties: Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Greater Manchester.
The park’s name derives from peac, an Old English word meaning hill. The Peak District’s high point is on Kinder Scout, a Derbyshire moorland plateau some 2,088 feet above sea level.
The Peak District is traditionally split into two contrasting areas, essentially defined by their geology.
The White Peak (Derbyshire Dales) is a limestone plateau of green fields with rolling hills and many incised dales (areas around Ashbourne, Dovedale, Matlock, Bakewell, Longnor).
The Dark Peak (or High Peak) is a series of higher, wilder and boggier gritstone plateaux (moorlands) and edges (areas north of Castleton and Hathersage), and in which land in Sheffield falls.
Over 90 percent of Peak District is privately owned land. The National Trust owns 12 percent, and three water companies own another 11 percent. The Peak District National Park Authority owns only 5 percent. About 86 percent of the total is farmland, which is used mostly for grazing sheep or cattle.
The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act received Royal Assent in December 1949 and received a designation order in December 1950.
After years of debate and argument , the Peak District National Park became a reality in April 1951, announced by Hugh Dalton, Minister of Local Government.
He specified that a Joint Board of 27 members, including people nominated by Sheffield City Council, should be responsible for its management.
Interestingly, Derbyshire County Council had opposed the idea of a joint board and persuaded the County Councils of Staffordshire, Cheshire and the West Riding to join them in opposition. But Sheffield City Council supported the idea of a single planning board.
All these years later, Sheffield City Council is currently represented on the Peak District National Park Authority by Mike Chaplin, Labour Councillor for Southey.