A CONTROVERSIAL decision to relocate Dulverton’s Exmoor National Park Centre (NPC) has been defended by the park authority.

A storm of protest erupted when the authority said it was moving its NPC from the town centre to its nearby headquarters, Exmoor House, where it would be open Monday to Friday from Easter to the end of October.

It is also cutting opening hours of its Lynmouth centre by two hours a day and stopping its £4,000 a year payment to Porlock Visitor Centre and £3,000 to Combe Martin Tourist Information Point, which both share key messages for the authority.

The moves will save £50,000 a year for the park authority, which has been facing a financial crisis and needed to make cost savings to help balance next year’s budget.

The changes will take effect from the autumn of next year, allowing the NPCs in Dulverton, Dunster, and Lynmouth to operate as normal during the 2024 tourism season.

Rural enterprise manager Dan James, who oversees the centres, said the Dulverton relocation and opening hours cutbacks were needed to address a real-terms reduction of funding for the national park.

Mr James said: “We understand this has caused some disappointment.

“Our members were clear in their deliberations that this was a decision necessitated by a continued decline in funding, and in no way reflected the value of the service.

“Nobody wants to take a decision like this, but with core funding being reduced by over 50 per cent in real terms we can no longer do everything in the same way.

“However, I am pleased that rather than lose the service, the authority has been able to propose a relocation.

“This allows significant cost savings to be realised while maintaining face to face information provision for users of the national park within Dulverton, the southern gateway to Exmoor.

“We hope to work closely with the community and stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition.”

Mr James said all three NPCs served an important role, but Dulverton’s footfall was half that of Dunster and less than a third of Lynmouth’s.

He accepted the changes could adversely affect the delivery of national park purposes to both residents and visitors, but costs had to be reduced somehow.

More information about Exmoor National Park Centres and their opening times can be found on the authority’s website here.