South Downs wins park protection
A SOUTH Downs National Park is to be created – after a wait of almost 60 years
Environment Minister Hilary Benn confirmed the South Downs would be the country's ninth national park.
The decision has been a long time coming, with the area first identified as a national park site in 1949.
Chris Todd, campaign officer for the SoADVERTISEMENTuth Downs Campaign, said, "This is a major victory for what in fact has been a grassroots campaign from the public and we could not have done this without their help. This is a dream come true."
The campaign comprised a group of 160 organisations.
The 627 sq mile protected park will stretch from Beachy Head to the edge of Winchester and, following a 19-month public inquiry into its borders, will take in the disputed Western Weald area, Lewes and Ditchling.
A new South Downs National Park Authority should be created by next April, an organisation Mr Todd said would make it far easier to get Government funding, and more of it.
Susan Morris, Eastbourne Borough Council cabinet member for tourism, said, "Becoming a gateway to the South Downs National Park is fantastic for Eastbourne and really establishes the resort as a coast and country destination.
"Eastbourne already enjoys a wide range of activities on its downland. Coupled with a growing selection of themed breaks marketed by hotels, we are already ideally placed to take advantage of this growing market."
But Eastbourne MP Nigel Waterson said planning applications could now be taken out of local control and decided by an unelected quango and that extending the park boundary to include Lewes could put a stop to road improvements on the A27. "A national park can bring some benefits, including to tourism. But ministers have ignored the views of almost all local authorities in the area, as well as local people. This is profoundly undemocratic," he said.
Ann De Vecchi, the Liberal Democrat leader of Lewes District Council, said, "This is typical of the Conservatives, to favour building roads over the campaign for a new national park.
"We believe there will be an enormous benefit to the local economy, as well as protection of an important landscape."
08 April, 2009
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