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|Campaign: South Downs National Park|
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A Nonsensical Boundary
"What sort of National Park boundary slices straight through a little hamlet like Steep Marsh? That's my house, which they say will be in the Park, and our field, where we are standing, will be out of it."
Mrs Caroline Robinson, a Steep Parish Councillor, shows the map to her son, Josh. "I don't believe the people who drew this map can ever have been down here to look at it on the ground," says Mrs Robinson.
CPRE East Hampshire chairman, John Venning, comments:
"This is an example of the sort of nonsense that's bound to crop up all over the place when you abandon a carefully-researched and drawn boundary, like the one Natural England's predecessor, the Countryside Agency, drew up, which was properly examined in public. In its place, we are being offered an ill-drawn boundary that cuts a great fillet of beautiful landscape out of the back of the proposed South Downs National Park, separating the chalk downs from the equally beautiful weald that they look out onto. And after months of delay, we are being asked to sign up to the new plan in six weeks, bang in the middle of the summer holidays".
CPRE is supporting the South Downs Campaign and believes that a National Park is the best way of conserving and enhancing the beautiful countryside of the South Downs, Hangers and Western Weald and ensuring sufficient funding for landowners and farmers in the area.
The Inspector's findings on the National Park proposals have now been released by Defra, following an 18 month-long inquiry that was completed in March 2005. He has recommended that the South Downs National Park should be confined largely to the chalk hills and has recommended the exclusion of the Western Weald, which has been nationally protected as AONB since the 1960s.
According to CPRE, the case to exclude the Western Weald is flawed and should be rejected by Ministers. They are particularly concerned that the Inspector has concluded that the part of the AONB from Petersfield northwards along the upper Rother valley should lose its protected status. No evidence was presented to the Inquiry to lead to this conclusion, which was based on a report by the Inspector's landscape assessor that has never been open to public scrutiny.
CPRE is campaigning for a full twelve week consultation of the new proposals and the evidence they are based on.
A Petition to the Prime Minister (to include the western Weald area in the national park), set up by the South Downs Campaign, is now live on the internet:- http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/western-weald/
An emergency meeting is being held at East Hampshire District Council on Thursday, July 26th, which CPRE representatives will attend.
They are urging Hampshire residents to write to their MPs, local councillors and the DEFRA Minister Jonathan Shaw, in support of the western Weald area, and in particular Petersfield, Liss, Longmoor, Woolmer Pond and Woolmer Forest being included in the national park. In CPRE's view, the western Weald contains all of the necessary elements of natural beauty, landscape quality, wildlife, cultural heritage, tranquillity, sense of place and quality of recreation to qualify it for inclusion in the South Downs National Park.
Further information can be found online (follow the external links listed top right), or telephone CPRE's office on 01962 843655.
As submitted to Petersfield Herald, 16th July 2007
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