LEADING conservation groups are calling on the Government to step up the protection of national parks amid a wave of major developments, including the world’s largest potash mine.

A study by the National Trust, Campaign for National Parks and Campaign to Protect Rural England has concluded short-term economic priorities are overriding long-established protections, paving the way for inappropriate development in both the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors national parks.

Researchers found national policy on whether to support major developments in the parks since the 1940s had reflected each Government’s stance, and cited recent developments - such as Sirius Minerals’ potash mine near Whitby - which have been granted permission as highlighting the views of the recent Conservative administrations.

The conservation groups said the mine would “disfigure the landscape”.

It said other proposed major developments that threatened the protected areas’ beauty, along with their cultural and environmental significance, included Tarmac’s plan to increase quarrying activities, and a holiday complex, both in the Yorkshire Dales.

The report also highlights how bids were expected to frack below the North York Moors National Park.

The conservation groups have dismissed such arguments, saying the major development test - which states large-scale planning applications should be refused unless there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ - written into the constitution of national park authorities was the central planning protection for the exceptional landscapes.

The groups are calling for the Government to reconfirm its commitment to National Parks in the forthcoming 25-year plan for the environment and for protections for nature are maintained after the UK leaves the European Union.

A Government spokesman declined to directly respond to the conservation groups’ claims, but said one of its manifesto commitments included maintaining the strongest protections for national parks.

He said: “Planning powers lie with national park authorities, and they strike a balance between the economic benefits of development and protection of these beautiful natural places.”