THE COUNTRYSIDE Agency is considering the expansion of two national parks in the north of England, reports The Guardian.

The agency is reviewing the land surrounding the M6 corridor, which lies between the Lake District national park in the West and the Yorkshire Dales national park in the East. 

The 50-mile strip of land runs from Penrith in the North to Lancaster in the South and takes in the Eden valley in Cumbria and the high upland fells.

The CA is considering whether the area is worthy of national park status or whether it should be designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The agency is expected to report its decision in March 2005.

The issue is proving controversial as any extension to the Lake District NP is likely to include the area between Shap and Tebay, where developers have proposed plans for a wind farm. 

The proposed wind farm at Whinash includes 27 turbines each 115 metres (380ft) high.

Protestors against the proposal told the paper they were delighted at the possible extension of the park‘s boundaries.

“This reinforces what we have been saying all along, that the landscape is far too precious to be used for industrial purposes,” said Kyle Blue, a member of the No Whinash Windfarm group.

“This unexpected boost from the CA has made our hand of cards a little stronger. It is going to be a fascinating public inquiry,” he added.

But West Coast Energy, the company behind the Whinash windfarm proposal, remained upbeat about the CA‘s decision to review the area.

“We are aware of the CA‘s move, but it will be a long-term process. We don‘t see any particular link with our proposed windfarm,” said Stephen Salt, WCE planning director.