NATIONAL Parks in England have welcomed proposals for direct elections of members announced in the Queen’s Speech last week.

Ministers say the proposals would improve local accountability in areas protected by national park status, including Exmoor.

Under draft proposals, the Environment Secretary would have the power to order direct elections, meaning local residents could vote for some of the authority members who have responsibility for running parks and taking planning decisions.

It would also allow parish councils to choose their representatives on the authorities from a wider group of candidates, including residents rather than just councillors.

Andrea Davis, chairman of the Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We were anticipating that the legislation would be required to respond to some of the proposals set out in the Government’s review of National Park Authority Governance published in 2012, and I think it’s fantastic that this will provide even more opportunity for involvement in the work of the authority from the public.

“In our 60th anniversary year, we are pleased the Government has recognised how much we value local voices being heard in the running of the authority.

“It is important that we have a membership that reflects the concerns of local communities as well as being able to lead the Authority’s work in furthering National Park purposes.”

The draft bill follows from public consultations in 2011-12 and also is expected to allow local authorities more flexibility in appointing members to an authority.

The Local Government Association said it would assess the legislation ‘for any potential implications’, when it is published.

There are 10 members of the national park ‘family’ in England including Dartmoor and Exmoor.