South Downs National Park is 5 Years Old!
This month we celebrate 5 years of the South Downs National Park. What difference has being in a National Park make, you may ask? Here are just five successes from the UK’s newest National Park’s first five years:
- Thanks to work by landowners, other partners and the dedicated volunteers of the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service, we have worked to create bigger, better more joined up chalk grassland and rare species such as the Duke of Burgundy butterfly that call it home have returned in force. This important habitat covers only 4 per cent of the National Park and was in dire need of help.
- Our Sustainable Communities Fund has breathed life into 131 community projects in the market towns, hamlets and villages across the National Park that help to make it such a special place. These include walking trails, food festivals, visitor guides, local theatre productions and community shops among many other things.
- For the cyclists among us, nearly 10km of new cycle paths have been created across the National Park, with 55km to follow over the next few years. This is thanks to over £4m investment from the central Government’s Cycling Ambition Fund as well as additional support from a number of local authorities.
- Built at the start of the 20th Century King Edward VII hospital in West Sussex was in serious decline since its closure in 2006. Made up of a number of Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings surrounded by a Gertrude Jekyll designed Registered Historic Garden – leaving the buildings to decay wasn’t an option. This was the first major development to be approved in the National Park by the SDNPA and planners worked closely with the developers to make sure that restoration was sensitive. The project was recognised by the Royal Town and Planning Institute’s Awards, proving that sensitive planning can add value to protected landscapes.
- How do we know we are in the South Downs National Park? We have worked with local organisations and businesses to develop an identity for the South Downs National Park all of its own which will add value to the work of farmers, other businesses and communities across the National Park and is also designed to let people know they are in a special place, helping us to manage behaviour such as responsible dog walking and using public transport.
And what will you see over the next five years? Work is underway to improve our heathland and encourage more people to travel here by bus and train. Over the next couple of years we hope to see the shared identity being used by more and more people across the National Park and, if all goes to plan, parts of the National Park will form a new South Downs National Park International Dark Skies Reserve. To complement the first ever South Downs National Park Partnership Management Plan, by 2020 we will also have published a Local Plan for the South Downs, setting out for the first time how we’ll manage development in order to meet our responsibilities to conserve the landscape while serving the needs of our communities and the local economy.
Together, we’re going to be very busy!
Why not follow our recommendations for 5 Wonderful Ways to Discover the South Downs.