After years of legal wrangling, hundreds of square miles of South Downs countryside between Winchester and Eastbourne has finally been declared the UK’s ninth national park today, more than 60 years after the area was recommended for park status.
A new South Downs National Park Authority is expected to be established by April 2010 and become fully operational a year later. The government said the new protected area was in line with the inspector's final recommendations, following a 19-month public inquiry.
Disputed areas including the Western Weald, Lewes and the village of Ditchling will be included within the park's boundary but areas such as Toad’s Hole Valley and Hangleton Bottom will not. The Economic Partnership lobbied for these areas of poor landscape quality to be excluded (see earlier stories)
Already attracting around 39 million visitors every year, the South Downs was one of 12 areas in England and Wales identified 62 years ago in the Hobhouse Report as being worthy of attaining national park status.
However, not everyone was happy. Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, president of the Country Land & Business Association, said, "We have observed in other national parks that draconian planning and regulation has stifled rural enterprise ultimately at the expense of people who derive their living from the land, which is deeply worrying. The South Downs is largely a manmade landscape. It is imperative that the authority created to run the national park works with rural businesses so they can prosper and benefit from the new designation rather than suffer."
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Toad's Hole Valley