Celebrating the South Downs National Park’s fourth birthday

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‘We won the South Downs National Park just in time.  Without the designation, the park might now be a very different place, with new development not only beating at its door, but trampling all over it.’  So said Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary, at a rally organised by the Hampshire Ramblers at Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Petersfield.

The event was to mark the fourth anniversary of the establishment of the National Park, and the third anniversary of the National Park Authority taking up its statutory powers.  Other speakers were Doug Jones, a member of the authority, and Christopher Napier of CPRE Hampshire.

the walkers set off from Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

The walkers set off from Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

Said Kate: ‘This government is obsessed with building.  Land has been allocated for development right on the edge of the South Downs National Park and, were it not for the designation, would no doubt be spilling over into our most precious landscapes.  But the setting of the national park is also tremendously important and should be protected.

‘We must ensure that when we stand on the high spots such as Butser Hill and Ditchling Beacon we do not see further suburbanisation creeping up to the park boundary.

‘The park authority is working hard to hold the line, and recently celebrated three successes in defending its planning decisions against appeals in Lewes, Selborne and Patching.

Recently the Open Spaces Society backed the Campaign for National Parks in its opposition to government plans to weaken planning controls and allow the conversion of redundant agricultural buildings to housing without the need for planning consent.  We were delighted when the government backed down as it would have put at risk attractive buildings which are part of the landscape and of our cultural heritage.


Buriton village.

Buriton village.

‘Open spaces close to people’s homes are also under unprecedented threat.  The government has stopped people from registering village greens where land is earmarked for development.  This means that local people are losing the green spaces they have long loved and enjoyed.

‘While the government has invented something called Local Green Space, which supposedly can be designated during the neighbourhood and local plan process, it is an obscure and well-kept secret and we know of very few which have been created.

‘Today we celebrate the hard work of all those who, campaigning over decades, achieved the designation of the South Downs National Park, and we thank the authority for its vigilance and tenacity in the face of enormous pressures.’

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