A BODY charged with conserving a national park and promoting opportunities for its enjoyment has approved its largest ever budget, despite facing a continuing squeeze on its funds.

A meeting of the North York Moors National Park Authority heard the £9.2m budget for the coming financial year emphasised the increasing amount of activity that was being delivered despite the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs grant increasing at a rate less than inflation to £4.3m.

The coming year will see £1.5m spent on conserving cultural heritage, £1.2m on conserving the natural environment and £1.2m on recreation management.

Members said the ability to maintain the record activity levels would depend on continuing success in attracting external funding, but the authority was on course to exceed the £6m target for generating external income.

The meeting was told despite the increasing pressures on the authority, the majority of its objectives in its four-year business plan had been achieved or had seen substantial progress as it reached the half-way point.

Significant achievements, members were told, included working with young people across a range of initiatives, with the Education Service making more than 18,000 contacts each year, and on raising the profile of the national park.

However, members raised concerns over the one objective out of 54 in the business plan where “little or no progress” had been made - ensuring that all data and records are well managed and readily available.

Caroline Patmore said: “Surely this work is paramount. I’m staggered we haven’t got that at our fingertips.”

The authority’s chief executive Andy Wilson said the management of some data had suffered from staff cutbacks, but it had been identified as an area to direct resources towards.

He said: “We are keen on doing activity in the field and sometimes the bit that is monitoring and evaluating... we used to have a performance officer.”