Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson

American author and journalist Bill Bryson will today present a giant postcard to the Government to urge ministers to include the widest possible area in the proposed South Downs national park.

The Iowa-born anglophile, who is now president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, is handing over the card in support of the South Downs Campaign, which is pressing for the setting up of a national park in the downs. The card is one of thousands being sent in support of the move.

Ramblers’ president Floella Benjamin, twice Everest attempter Brian Blessed and adventurer Ben Fogle have also signed the card.

Mr Bryson said: “The postcard campaign has inspired a huge response from the public who support the national park. It shows the Government how important it is to confirm the South Downs national park with the widest possible boundary.”

More than 18,500 cards have been sent to Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Mr Bryson continued: “The four areas shown on the postcard: the Western Weald, the chalk downland, the town of Lewes and the village of Ditchling are greatly deserving of national-park status. We hope that the Government will listen to the many thousands of voices that support this.

“This is the landmark 60th anniversary year of the legislation that established national parks. The then Labour Government described the Act as ‘the most exciting Act of the post-war Parliament’.  We hope the minister in 2009 makes a similarly historic decision with regards to the South Downs.

“I hope that the giant postcard that I’m giving to the Government on behalf of the South Downs Campaign will find a happy home with the thousands of postcards that have already been sent in.

“We’re calling on the public to help show support for the South Downs national park by sending in their own electronic postcard to the Government.

“This is history in the making; have your say now!”

A decision on the South Downs park is expected in the early summer. The promise of a national park in the area was made almost ten years ago.

Campaigners want 371 sq km (143 sq miles) in West Sussex and Hampshire included in the national park.

The electronic postcard can be found on the CPRE’s website.