Hopes of a creating a National Park in Dorset have been dashed after the county was left out of a Government announcement.

Announcing proposals to 'create and improve protected landscapes across England', the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the Yorkshire Wolds and Cheshire Sandstone Ridge will be considered for status as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), as well as extensions to the existing Surrey Hills and Chilterns protected areas.

The proposals follow an independent review led by writer Julian Glover who had recognised Dorset's outstanding case for National Park status and considered it as a strong candidate along with the Cotswolds and the Chilterns.

The proposed park for Dorset would have covered the whole of the current Dorset and East Devon AONBs, as well as Purbeck and Egdon Heath.

However this status for Dorset is not being progressed by the Government.

Large swathes of Dorset are currently designated as an AONB. A National Park differs from an AONB in that they have National Park Authorities with greater planning powers.

Supporters felt the status could bring investment to the region and give the county a major economic boost, while opponents have raised concerns that it could result in a loss of local decision-making controls and lead to greater housebuilding to just outside the the boundaries of protected landscape.

West Dorset MP Chris Loder does not support National Park status for Dorset and he welcomed the news that Dorset will not face the prospect of such a designation.

He said: "The Government has clearly listened to our feedback and think we are better off as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty rather than a National Park.

"Natural England is instead focusing on designating areas in the Chilterns and the Surrey Hills, and creating two new AONBs in the Yorkshire Wolds and Cheshire Sandstone Ridge which is the right thing to do."

He added: “I have campaigned in the interests of local people for some time. While I understand there are benefits and weaknesses with a National Park, I believe the weaknesses outweigh the benefits with so much evidence pointing towards a lesser quality of life, less employment income and tougher business operating conditions. And with the coronavirus recovery taking place, this is the right thing for West Dorset.”

Chairman of Dorset CPRE Peter Bowyer said: "It is very clear that a National Park in Dorset would give an important level of protection to the environment and to heritage sites in the county.

“There are significantly more resources which could be gained from a National Park than an AONB.

“I would take the opposite view and say that the National Park would create more jobs in the area. It would promote local jobs, not just in tourism, but it would also enhance the work of local farmers."

*At a public meeting in 2019 outlining the vision for National Park status, it was said that tens of millions of pounds could flow into Dorset if the county wins National Park status. The Government cash could boost tourism, the rural economy, support sustainable public transport and help with affordable housing.