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SOUTH DOWNS NATIONAL PARK - PUBLIC INQUIRY

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A public inquiry into the proposal to designate a South Downs ...
A public inquiry into the proposal to designate a South Downs

National Park was announced today by the rural affairs minister Alun

Michael.

In a written statement to parliament, Mr Michael said:

'The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 requires

an inquiry be held into a Designation Order if a local authority has

objected and the objection is not withdrawn. Several local

authorities have made objections and have so far not withdrawn them.

Consequently, a public inquiry will be called.'

The inquiry, which is expected to start in late autumn, will hear

objections and representations on whether the South Downs meets the

criteria for a National Park in relation to the natural beauty of the

area and the opportunities afforded for open air recreation. In

addition, it will hear whether the boundary should be altered to

include or exclude any areas, and representations on the

establishment of a National Park Authority. Objections to Orders

revoking the East Hampshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and

the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will also be

heard.

NOTES

1. In 1999, ministers asked the Countryside Agency to consider

designating the South Downs as a national park. After identifying a

boundary for the Park and considering the administrative arrangements

required to meet the special circumstances of the South Downs, the

agency has submitted a Designation Order to the secretary of state

for confirmation.

2. The Designation Order was put on public deposit from 27 January to

28 February 2003 to enable people to make representations to the

order. Around 5,000 were received; 14 local authorities raised

objections. Under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside

Act 1949, an inquiry must be called if a local authority maintains an

objection to the order.

3. The current national parks in England are Dartmoor, Exmoor, the

Lake District, the Nort h York Moors, Northumberland, the Peak

District and the Yorkshire Dales. Each of them has a national park

authority, which looks after conservation issues and helps people to

understand and enjoy their special qualities, as well as seeking to

foster the social and economic well-being of local communities in the

national parks. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads has a similar status

to a national park but is set up under separate legislation.

The New Forest is currently subject to a public inquiry to hear

representations on the need for a national park to protect the

natural beauty of the area, the opportunities for open air recreation

and whether the land within the boundary meets the criteria for

national park status. It started on 8 October 2002 and will finish on

10 April 2003. In addition, representations about the management and

administrative measures for a possible national park authority are

being heard, including views on the advice provided to the government

by the Countryside Agency.

4. National park budgets are provided by government, 75 per cent

directlythrough the National Parks Grant and the remaining 25 per

cent through the revenue support grant to local authorities.

Membership of a national park authority is drawn mainly from local

bodies - constituent local authorities appoint half plus one; the

Secretary of State appoints the remainder, of which half minus one

represent parish interests. The others represent national interests.

Typically, on a national park authority of 26 members, this results

in 14 local authority appointees, 5 secretary of state appointees to

represent parish interests and 7 secretary of state appointees to

represent national interests.

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