Historic Day For South Downs National Park

The South Downs National Park Authority comes into full operation today (1st April).

The park, which covers 627 square-miles across Sussex and Hampshire, was approved two years ago, more than 60 years since the area was recommended as a National Park and a decade since the Government first announced its intention to designate it as such.

The area of rolling chalk uplands, river valleys and wooded greens, which stretches more than 100 miles from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east, then became England's 10th National Park a year ago.

From today the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) will be responsible for all planning within the park, and with 4,000 planning applications a year, it will be one of the largest planning authorities in the country.

However the 15 local authorities within the park's boundaries are expected to provide many of the day to day planning services on its behalf.

SDNPA chairwoman Margaret Paren said:

"This is be a long-awaited and historic day for everyone who loves the South Downs.

"Given the unique character of the National Park, over the past year we have been developing our approach for the future in close consultation with local communities, environmental groups and landowners.

"As the new Authority, we have statutory purposes and socio-economic duties which we will be working hard to fulfil.

"By working together, we can all protect and enhance the National Park for residents and visitors today and future generations to come."

Robert Cheesman, chairman of the South Downs Society, said:

"The campaign for a National Park for the South Downs has taken over 60 years, and on April 1, a critical element of those many years of work falls into place.

"On this day, the National Park Authority becomes fully operational and takes on its legal powers.

"For over 80 years, we have called for the South Downs to be safeguarded, and as the National Park Society, we look forward to helping the new Authority achieve its goals of protecting the National Park and helping the public to enjoy this very special part of Britain."

Campaigners and supporters of the park will be taking part in a celebratory five-mile walk from East Dean to Birling Gap, near Eastbourne today (April 1st 2011).