Green Light for South Downs National Park
- Green Light for South Downs National Park
Lewes included in the new National Park
20 year campaign succeeds after Government announcement
The Ramblers, as part of the South Downs Campaign group, is celebrating the news that the Government has confirmed the South Downs National Park in Sussex and Hampshire.
The South Downs stretches westwards for more than 90 miles from the spectacular white cliffs of Beachy Head across Sussex and Hampshire to Winchester. It contains some of the best-known and most admired hill country in the United Kingdom.
The Park will be established broadly along the lines proposed by the then Countryside Agency, almost seven years ago and will bring greater protection and funding to the area. It also includes the 'hotly contested' Western Weald (an area of sandstone woodland and farmland the size of the Isle of Wight), and the settlements of Ditchling and Lewes.
The news comes just days after the campaign, supported by Ramblers president Floella Benjamin, Ben Fogle (Campaign for National Parks) and Bill Bryson (CPRE), delivered over 20,000 postcards to Defra highlighting the public support for this new National Park.
Ramblers South Downs Campaigner, David Murray, said of today's announcement: "The government should be congratulated for providing such a great gift to the nation. National Parks are a huge walking asset, offering a myriad of walking opportunities. The South Downs in on the doorstep of millions of people and this decision will safeguard it for future generations".
The Governmentâs announcement that there will be a South Downs National Park to replace 99% the East Hampshire and Sussex Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty concludes ten years of discussion about a National Park and its boundary.
It has been almost a decade since the process to confirm the designation of the South Downs National Park began in September 1999. A public inquiry resulting in proposed boundary changes caused a great deal of controversy locally and nationally, and campaigns for the inclusion of Lewes, Ditchling and the Western Weald drew many supporters.
The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has decided that the area is best served by the creation of a new National Park. The area will continue to be managed by the South Downs Joint Committee (SDJC) while the new National Park Authority is being established.
The National Park Authority will replace the existing AONB designation which the area has enjoyed since the 1960s.
Charles Anson, South Downs Joint Committee Chairman, welcomed the fact that a decision has now been made, and said:
âThe question of the National Park designation has been part of the background to the SDJCâs work for many years and we are delighted that a decision has been announced which gives us more certainty now, following a long period of discussion and debate. This decision will help to ensure the long term security and protection of the South Downs, which is in everyoneâs interest.
We will do all we can to ensure that there is a smooth transition and that the National Park is in place as soon as practicable, building effectively on the successful work of the Joint Committee over many years.â
The South Downs Joint Committeeâs website at www.southdownsonline.org is frequently updated with information or alternatively, go to www.defra.gov.uk
Charles Anson, South Downs Joint Committee Chairman, is available for interviews on the decision announced by Defra.
Notes for Editors:
1) The South Downs Joint Committee is a partnership comprising representatives of local authorities in Hampshire, East and West Sussex as well as Natural England. It manages the South Downs for conservation, recreation and the local economy and has a key voice in planning policies and development control.
The South Downs comprises the East Hampshire and Sussex Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covering an area of 1,366 sq km running from Eastbourne to Winchester. The South Downs is one of more than 50 protected landscapes in England and Wales (national parks and AONBs).
The South Downs Joint Committee employs 50 staff and 400 volunteers in five local offices, under the direction of the South Downs Officer, who maintain and improve the landscape and conservation of the Downs. It has an annual budget of Â£2.3m comprising contributions from the local authorities, Natural England and other specialist project funding.
2) The work of the South Downs Joint Committee includes:
â¢ Rights of Way maintenance
â¢ Improving public access to the South Downs
â¢ Informing and educating
â¢ Landscape conservation
3) Images of the South Downs and the work of the South Downs Joint Committee can be found at http://www.southdowns.gov.uk/news/
4) Mr Charles Anson was appointed Chairman of the South Downs Joint Committee in January 2009, succeeding Lord Renton of Mount Harry, a well-known local MP for Mid Sussex and former Minister in the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher.