Historic Day for the South Downs National Park

The South Downs National Park, Britain’s newest National Park, is celebrating its first anniversary today, with bell-ringing, a celebratory walk and morris dancing. The National Park stretches from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex and is the fourth largest National Park in England and Wales. Covering 1,600 square kilometres, 85% of the Park’s land is under cultivation.

The South Downs National Park was sanctioned by the Government in March 2009 and was formally designated one year later. Today, on the first anniversary of the Park’s creation, responsibility for planning decisions within the Park’s boundaries passes to the National Park Authority, which becomes the eighth largest planning authority in England. The Park Authority expects to deal with 4,000 planning applications per year, and whilst the Authority will take responsibility for setting a strategic visiton for the Park, day-to-day decisions will be delegated to the 15 local authorities within the Park.

Speaking in a BBC interview this morning, Margaret Paten, chair of the National Park Authority, said that ‘National Parks are good for the economy’, but made it clear that the creation of the National Park would not result in additional and uneccessary beaurocracy for the Park’s residents. The NPA will try to balance economic growth and investment with preserving and conserving the beauty of the landscape for people to enjoy.

Some residents have expressed concern about the additional pressures which will be placed on the land through increased visitor numbers. Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, an RSPB spokesman countered these fears, commenting on the importance of encouraging people to visit the National Park; “If people are going to appreciate the countryside, they have to be allowed to go and see what it’s like”.

See South Downs: bells ring out to celebrate Britain’s new national park (Guardian, 31st March)
and ‘Historic Day’ for South Downs National Park (BBC, 1st April)