'This is a firm endorsement of the Countryside Agency's work towards a South Downs National Park over the last two years and follows two consultations,' says Jane Cecil, head of the finest countryside team at the Countryside Agency.
'Of the remaining representations almost three quarters (72%) were in support of the principle of a South Downs National Park and almost all of those were from individuals. This clearly shows there is widespread enthusiasm for a South Downs National Park. It confirms how important this debate is, and how important the South Downs are, to local people,' Ms Cecil said.
'Almost all of the objections regarding the boundary (90%) are arguing for additional areas to be added and two thirds of those representations come from people who support the principle of a national park in the South Downs.
'What has also become clearer now from our assessment is that only five per cent of those sending non-standardised letters objected to the principle of a South Downs National Park. Many of these were from local authorities and landowners.
'We will now ensure that the work towards the inquiry goes as smoothly as possible and hope that everyone will work together with us to this end,' Ms Cecil emphasised.
There are curr ently eight national parks and 37 areas of outstanding natural beauty in England. National parks are designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 for the twin purposes of preserving and enhancing their natural beauty and of promoting their enjoyment by the public. In 1995 parliament added that NPAs should take account of the economic and social needs of local communities. The Environment Act 1995 revised the main purposes to: conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the national parks; and promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities by the public. National park authorities are currently funded at 75% of approved expenditure from central government, with 25% coming via local authorities, which are compensated for this by central government. Members are appointed by local authorities, from parish councils and by the secretary of state.