South Downs National Park
The South Downs National Park covers one of the most beautiful areas in South East England, stretching from Hampshire to the East Sussex coast, along the historic ridge of the South Downs. The debate has been raging for years now, and the most recent development has excluded the Western Weald that includes a Greensand ridge north of Midhurst. The area they are excluding contains a large number of areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), that will be lost to the greed of developers if excluded from the park. The old boundary proposal is available at the DEFRA website.
Most of the area that is proposed to lie outside the park is in the Chichester District Council area, and this council has been very vocal in its opposition to the park - they will, of course lose much of their power of the area. For the north of the district, however, the people have long felt second-class citizens and a dumping ground of problems for the council, and the though of having a national park between the councillors and the towns and villages in the north is worrying the inhabitants.
Once a national park has been set up, it appears that AONB status will be removed from surrounding areas - because of the additional protection the park offers nearby. But I would argue that the Downs are nothing without the Weald, and it is the differentiation of the landscapes that make the Downs so beautiful. The views from the Downs escarpment, north over the Weald are spectacular, and much of this will be endangered when the park is established. I feel that it is vital that we keep at least some of the Weald, especially where it has already been designated an AONB, to provide this contrast, and maintain the important ecosystem of highland/lowland margins. We cannot have an island of highland Downs, surrounded by the millions of houses the Government wants to build in the South East.
The Government has now reopened the inquiry on the South Downs National Park, to revisit the issue of the Western Weald. I would implore you to sign up on the petition to get the area included in the park again - the website for the petition is:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/western-weald
An action group has been set up and their website is available at
www.southdownscampaign.org.uk
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