Natural England
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A new dawn for the Downs

A living landscape becomes a 21st Century National Park.

Natural England today (Thursday 12 November) celebrates the Secretary of State's confirmation of National Park status for the South Downs. The iconic landscape of the South Downs will be Britain's fourth largest National Park by area, at just over 1,600sq km.

The South Downs, home to an estimated 120,000 people - the largest population of any National Park - joins a formidable family of nine English National Parks, alongside remarkable landscapes like the Lake District and the Peak District. It will stretch from Beachy Head to the edge of Winchester, and will also include the Western Weald. A new South Downs National Park Authority is expected to be established by April 2010 and will become fully operational a year later.

Poul Christensen, Natural England’s Acting Chair, said: “The South Downs is a priceless environmental asset in one of the most densely populated areas in the world. It fully deserves its new National Park status which stands out as a statement of ambition for the way landscapes need to be protected and valued in 21st century England.”

Rich in wildlife and cultural heritage and providing over two thousand miles of well-managed paths and bridleways, the new Park will enable millions to connect with the natural environment, with all the benefits that this brings. Situated in one of the busiest and most populated areas in Europe, the South Downs’ fragile chalk and clay landscapes face a wide range of challenges - from climate change, to increasingly intensive usage of surrounding land, and growing demands for the development of new homes, roads and businesses.

The pressures on the South Downs have been acknowledged for decades and the possibility of creating a National Park in the South Downs was first proposed over 60 years ago by Sir Arthur Hobhouse, architect of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act that led to the creation of National Parks. He identified 12 areas as candidates for National Park status and with today’s decision to designate the South Downs, Hobhouse’s original National Park vision is at last complete.

Poul Christensen, Natural England’s Acting Chair, concluded, “National Park status for the South Downs is the final realisation of a very proud vision. It is sixty years since the 1949 National Parks Act became law and what better way to celebrate that legacy than by recognising the South Downs for what it very obviously is – a beautiful, wildlife-rich and uniquely accessible landscape.”

Notes to Editors:

Visit the Natural England website for further information about the South Downs National Park and a map of the confirmed boundary.

About Natural England
Natural England is the government’s independent advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

  • We establish and care for England’s main wildlife sites, ensuring that over 3,500 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.

  • We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Marine Conservation Zones, and advising widely on their conservation.

  • We run England’s Environmental Stewardship green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.

  • We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats. We have recently committed £6m to develop wetland areas and have detailed biodiversity action plans covering 75% of England’s species

  • We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.

For further information contact:
The National Press Office on 0845 603 9953, press@naturalengland.org.uk, out of hours 07970 098005.

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