This research is situated within the Brecon Beacons National Park (BBNP), it explores the role of
community driven initiatives in encouraging sustainable rural communities, whilst assessing the
relevance of tourism to such schemes. The National Park (NP) provide funding for community
led sustainability programmes, known as the Sustainable Development Fund, the examination
of this funding led to findings which challenge the common assumption that funding for
community led schemes will be of net benefit at the local level.
Through the use of a survey, focus groups and interviews it was observed that certain
components reflected in most rural development programmes such as the integration of
tourism, participation and the development of social capital are still barriers to rural
development and continue to hamper the effectiveness of not only the Sustainable
Development Funding (SDF) schemes, but the communities striving for sustainability. There is
evidence to suggest that community development with a significant emphasis on tourism may
be an important element in the survival and revival of the economy of the BBNP as traditional
agriculture continues to decline. Tourism, in policy terms, is perceived as a suitable form of
economic development for rural areas within the NP. However, as communities turn to tourism
as a means to raising income and employment, a lack of understanding of tourism and its
impacts has been identified as a barrier to a holistic and cohesive development strategy for
communities. Consequently, the use of publicly funded schemes that strive towards community
development have failed to embrace the opportunities that tourism offers.
Overall, this thesis concludes that, whilst funding via the SDF scheme was facilitating one-off
individual community projects, the wider geographic community was not being enhanced or
made more sustainable or developed either as a policy output or an output of the SDF projects.
The knowledge and skills necessary to acquire funding enabled expert communities to
participate and develop isolated pockets of social capital. However, this was at the exclusion of
the wider geographic community, who were not as practised at such techniques and processes,
consequently, denying them of such opportunities for development. As such, it questions
whether current mechanisms of funding for isolated, community driven sustainability initiatives
coupled with a lack of integration within the existing tourism structures and policies are
assisting sustainable community development within the NP. The research concludes with a
model which seeks to identify the key elements that may help develop sustainable communities
within the NP and the relationship between these elements. The model could be tested, in
future research, and other national parks in the UK that implement the SDF scheme to assess
its wider applicability.