The South Downs. Photo: Paul Stephenson CC-BY-2.0

The South Downs. Photo: Paul Stephenson [CC-2.0]

It has taken more than 60 years to become a reality, but today the South Downs will finally become England’s ninth national park.

The announcement, expected to be made in a in a tea room in Ditchling, will be welcomed by the more than 160 groups that have campaigned for the establishment across a large swathe of southern England. Secretary of State Hilary Benn gave the principle approval in March this year, but last minute wrangling over two sections meant delays while an inquiry was held.

The one-day public inquiry was held in August into the final boundary disputes. Now, however, the order bringing the South Downs national park into existence will be signed.

Robin Crane, chair of the South Downs Campaign, made up of more than 160 diverse organisations from local groups, societies and businesses and 29 parish and town councils, said: “Today is a fantastic and historic day: the final milestone on the long path to a South Downs national park.  The South Downs will now have the protection and recognition that this landscape so richly deserves.

“We are pleased that our evidence on Green Ridge has convinced the inspector and the Government that its exclusion was a mistake and that this has now been rectified.  We also welcome the inclusion of Alice Holt Forest, which will bring new opportunities to that part of Hampshire.

“Overall we are delighted and look forward to working with our partners to ensure that the new National Park Authority will be a great success.”

Ramblers chief executive Tom Franklin: huge walking asset

Ramblers' chief executive Tom Franklin: 'huge walking asset'

Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Ramblers, who are long-standing members of the South Downs Campaign, said: “The government should be congratulated for providing such a great gift to the nation.

“National parks are a huge walking asset, offering myriad walking opportunities. The South Downs is on the doorstep of millions of people and this decision will safeguard it for future generations.

What the Ramblers want to see next is the speedy creation of a strong national park authority, with planning powers, to ensure that national park purposes are considered in the context of development threats to nature conservation and public access.”

Although the confirmation order has now been signed, the national park won’t formally be created until 1 April 2010.

On the same date the current areas of outstanding natural beauty designations in East Hampshire and the Sussex Downs will be revoked.  The reason for this delay is to allow the South Downs Joint Committee, whose existence is reliant on the AONB designations, to continue to function while the South Downs National Park Authority is established.

It is likely that the shadow park authority will be established on 1 April 2010, but the legal order to enable this to happen is yet to be laid before Parliament.  This is expected to happen shortly.

There are currently eight national parks in England and 13 in Britain. Although the Broads are often included in the numbers, they are not, strictly, a national park.

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