12 ISSUES FOR £24 Subscribe to Hampshire Life today click here

The South Downs story

PUBLISHED: 15:58 16 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:42 20 February 2013

"There will always be challenges to face but I think now we are better positioned to tackle them"

It was a month of celebration when the South Downs was granted National Park status in March. After just three months of planning and decision making the finer details are coming together. Jim Keoghan talks to those involved about the story so far

It is said that everything comes to those who wait. In the case of the South Downs National Park, you could add that some people have to wait longer than most.
The recent creation of the South Downs National Park in March marks the culmination of a campaign that stretches back to the 1940s.
Its certainly been a lengthy wait but groups such as ourselves, who have long campaigned for a National Park, are very happy with the eventual outcome, says Jacquetta Fewster, Director of the South Downs Society.


A joint effort
With an area of 1,600 square kilometres and a 100-mile stretch from Winchester in the west to Beachy Head in the east, the new National Park represents the final recognition of how important this part of the country is.
But, as Jacquetta explains, without the tireless work by the South Downs Campaign (SDC), a collective of 160 local organisations, it might never have happened at all.
Since its foundation in 1990 the SDC, which comprised of groups such as ourselves, The Ramblers Association and CPRE, as well as local district, borough and parish councils, worked determinedly both in persuading the former Labour Government to look at the case for National Park status and then presenting the case for it during the lengthy inquiry process.


Ups and downs
Unlike Hampshires other National Park, the New Forest (established in 2005), when it came to the South Downs the process of creation was much more protracted. Despite Natural England recommending its formation as early as 2003, a boundary dispute over the Western Weald and concerns over the parks legal status ensured that the inquiry process took much longer than was originally envisaged.
As it stands today, the recently created South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA), which comprises of members appointed by both central government and local authorities, has until April 2011 to organise itself and its responsibilities before taking over full control of the National Park.


Key decisions
Despite its infancy, the SDNPA has already made some key decisions. One of the most important of these concerns planning. As of next April it will become the sole planning authority for the area. This will make the SDNPA one of the largest planning authorities in the country both in terms of the number of applications per year and the geographical area covered.
Although it will have final responsibility for planning, Andrew Shaxson, Chair of the Authoritys Planning Committee, says that in reality the existing local authorities will continue to play a key role.
We considered a number of options, taking account of comments from local residents, landowners and other interest groups, as well as the current 15 local planning authorities. The decision taken to, in principle, delegate most of the planning service back to the local authorities under our guidance, will enable the SDNPA to work strategically, focussing on the most significant and major applications likely to have the greatest impact on the National Park.


Community matters
According to Interim Head of Communications and Engagement Liz Ballard, the SDNPA have also been looking at what kind of service they can provide to the community.
The South Downs National Park has by far the largest population living within its boundary and is more intensively farmed compared to the other UK National Parks. Because of this, many local people have highlighted to the SDNPA the importance of direct contact and delivery on the ground. In response, we have agreed to take on the National Park Delivery Service. This means that the Authority will now develop an on-the-ground service to engage directly with the wider community. The service will be a responsive first point of contact, engaging with local communities on parish plans and local projects, providing advice, support and grant information to land managers, farmers and businesses, engaging with visitors, working with volunteers and generally communicating and enthusing people about the National Park.


Walk this way
Those who enjoy walking in the South Downs will be pleased to learn that the SDNPA has also made a commitment on the issue of access, specifically rights of way.
What we plan to do is work with our partner Highways Authorities to develop a joint approach to access, rights of way maintenance and improvements across the National Park says Liz Ballard.


Challenging times
Although the SDNPA has quickly and effectively dealt with many of the immediate issues it faces, Christopher Napier, chairman of CPRE Hampshire, thinks that challenges still remain. Looking ahead there are a number of areas where we will be seeking improvements. Among the more important of these are building character in our towns and villages so they become special to the new National Park, removal of unnecessary and intrusive signage and other clutter along our roads, and improving tranquillity by reducing traffic and aircraft noise and putting more pylons underground.
One problem that concerns everyone involved with the National Park is how the Authority will tackle issues such as these set against a background of a tighter financial climate. The countrys National Parks are funded by central Government and this year as a whole they will receive 48.8million from DEFRA. In a time when the Government is looking at ways to reduce spending its likely that those departments such as DEFRA who do not have their budgets ring-fenced could face significant cuts. Where this leaves the National Park is unclear. In many ways the South Downs is unfortunate to begin its life in such an unfavourable financial climate, certainly compared to that enjoyed by the New Forest during its creation.


Exciting times
Although many challenges remain, Jacquetta Fewster feels that the area is still in a much better position than it has been before. I think what you need to bear in mind is what the SDNPA has replaced. Previously the system was more fractured, whereas now there should be a unified approach to the South Downs.
Agencies and various groups who have a stake or an interest in the Downs now have a single authority as a point of contact, which will make communication easier. To date the SDNPA have been very inclusive of outside groups and I think this bodes well for the future. There will always be challenges but I think now we are better positioned to tackle them.


Find out more
South Downs National Park
www.southdowns.gov.uk
South Downs Society
www.southdownssociety.org.uk
National Parks
www.nationalparks.gov.uk


South Downs the facts
Population: 108,000 people live in the South Downs National Park.
Highest point: Blackdown Hill at 280 metres.
Number of Conservation Areas: 14.
Total coastline: 14km.
Visits per year: 40million.


Have your say
What are your thoughts on the creation of the new National Park? How does it affect you? Have your say on our forum

0 comments

More from People

12:09

The 2017 Queen’s New Year Honours List saw men and women across Hampshire recognised for their outstanding contributions, from charitable fundraising to services to science and to sport. Viv Micklefield celebrates with some the recipients

Read more
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Some of Hampshire’s best known personalities have revealed what they most love about the county. Here, we compile some quotes from our interviews over the years

Read more
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The recruitment of women into the Royal Navy is now the norm, 100 years after the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service. There have been choppy waters along the way though, as Viv Micklefield discovers on a visit to Portsmouth

Read more
Monday, June 12, 2017

Who better to tell us about Jane Austen on the 200th anniversary of her death than a writer who’s often been compared to her? Faith Eckersall caught up with our own Joanna Trollope, ahead of her talk about Austen at the Winchester Festival

Read more
Friday, June 9, 2017

On Thursday 8 June 2017, the country will begin voting to elect the Parliament of the United Kingdom. We’ve put together a list of Hampshire constituencies and candidates

Read more
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

They’re famous, successful and happily married to each other. What more could actors Sarah Parish and James Murray want? Try a £4m children’s A&E unit in Southampton. Faith Eckersall hears about the motivation behind their mission

Read more
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sir Ben Ainslie is one of our greatest living sportsmen, used to striking gold on his own in a boat. But he’s now embarked on a team quest to win The America’s Cup on behalf of the nation and, as Paul Hudson discovers, technology is driving the bid

Read more
Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hidden away in the centre of Eastleigh is an artistic powerhouse that started with a ‘crazily brave’ idea and is now a thriving creative hub. But it wouldn’t have got off the ground without backing from on high, as Faith Eckersall discovered

Read more
Wednesday, April 26, 2017

As another appalling incident on our roads hits the headlines, we are once again reminded that speed kills. But this isn’t a new message, so why is it still falling on deaf ears?

Read more
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The first Winchester Portrait Exhibition, which runs until May 2, can now be added to the city’s overflowing cultural calendar. Sandra Smith meets the man who got it off the ground, with a little help from his friends

Read more
Monday, April 24, 2017

Animal, vegetable or mineral, everything is fair game for the artistic eye of the modest Sandra Binney. A hairdresser by trade, she meets Sandra Smith

Read more
Thursday, April 20, 2017

When it comes to dream jobs, Kerry Witt has hit the naughty but nice jackpot. The pastry chef turned New Forest chocolatier spills the (cacao) beans on her confections to Faith Eckersall

Read more
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

He’s a giant of stage and screen, but Jeremy Irons tells Bernard Bale he could have joined the circus, if only the accommodation had been up to scratch

Read more
Monday, April 10, 2017

Those teenage years can be difficult, particularly for the parents. What do you do, for instance, when they just ignore you? When it happened to Kim Whitby, she entered an art competition and hasn’t looked back since

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad
Hampshire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Hampshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search

Search For a Car In Your Area