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|Press Release: 23rd July 2007|
Campaigners join forces to support Council over national park proposals
A group of countryside campaigners will gather with banners, placards and leaflets at 5.45pm on Thursday evening 26th July, to show solidarity with the East Hampshire District Council before an emergency Council meeting about the proposed redefined boundary of the South Downs National Park. Campaigners will also be speaking at a public seminar on the subject to be held at 3pm-5pm at the Council's offices, Penns Place, Petersfield.
Seminar speakers will include Christopher Napier, Margaret Paren and Minette Palmer from the Campaign to Protect Rural England; Owen Plunkett of the Rambler's Association and Chris Todd, of the South Downs Campaign.
Owen Plunkett, of the Rambler's Association, said:
"Obviously we are delighted that the Inspector has suggested that there should be a national park, but we are surprised and disappointed at the proposals to cut out such a large area of beautiful countryside that is important from both an environmental and recreational viewpoint. The area includes the very attractive Upper Rother Valley and the market town of Petersfield."
Margaret Paren of CPRE added:
"We would like to highlight our horror at the idiosyncratic conclusions of the Inspector's report, and to demonstrate our support for the Council's recommendations to strongly oppose any change to the original park boundary."
John Venning, chairman of CPRE East Hampshire District Group, said:
"This will be a park for the nation, forever, so it has to be the best possible South Downs National Park. If we get it wrong now, it will be hugely difficult to change it in the future."
In CPRE Hampshire's view, separating the chalk downs from their Wealden setting, to which they are historically attached and mutually dependent in landscape, cultural and recreational terms is unnecessary, wrong in law and would be detrimental to the South Downs National Park.
Mr Venning explained:
"The original boundary, drawn up by the Countryside Agency and endorsed by Natural England, is the only boundary that makes sense. It has been forged in the furnace of public debate. It would not, like the Inspector's redefined boundary, divide communities, cut up beautiful landscapes, leave fragments of AONBs unprotected from the ever-increasing threat of development...and so on.
"We have waited 60 years. Let us have the time and opportunity to put our case properly. There should be a full 12-week consultation to allow the public to comment fully on the proposals to exclude the western Weald. Then and only then will the Minister be in a position to decide whether a further public inquiry is really necessary, but let us not shuffle lamely into a half-park."
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