The South Downs

The South Downs

Britain’s family of national parks gained a new member today with the long-awaited birth of the South Downs national park.

Covering an area of 1,600 sq km (618 sq km), from Beachy Head to Winchester, the 15th national park came into being today. Its interim board will start business tomorrow, 1 April, with full powers coming into play a year later.

Welcoming the formal establishment of the new park, Ruth Chambers, deputy chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks, said: “It’s fantastic that the South Downs is now a fully fledged member of the national parks family.

“The campaign to secure its designation was long and arduous with many obstacles along the way, but it succeeded ultimately because of the dedication and tirelessness of those involved and the vision shown by Hilary Benn and the Government on the final confirmation.

“The area will now enjoy all of the benefits that national park status brings, including additional resources, co-ordinated planning and management and tailored support for land managers and farmers.”

Richard Shaw, interim chief executive for South Downs National Park Authority said: “I’m delighted that we have reached this important milestone. The South Downs has been nationally recognised for its natural beauty and the space it offers for people to enjoy the countryside. This is why it has been made into a national park.”

The authority has 27 Members appointed from local authorities covering the park, parish councillors plus national members appointed by the Secretary of State. The authority will formally meet for the first time on 20 April 2010.

Mr Shaw continued: “We have been struck by the love of the South Downs that people have expressed to us from across the region. Over the next two to three decades, there will be intense pressures on the Downs area – from development to climate change.

“The South Downs now has the highest level of landscape protection afforded to an area in the UK and national park designation will help to keep the South Downs special. A single organisation – the national park authority – has been established, with a dedicated focus on working with others to conserve and enhance what is special about the South Downs.

“We hope that the new national park will make a positive difference to those who live and work here, and those who visit.”

The South Downs National Park Authority is currently based in Midhurst, West Sussex, but this is an interim arrangement until more permanent headquarters are found. No decisions on the final location of its headquarters have yet been made.

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