The South Downs National Park's second anniversary was celebrated at an event attended on Sunday by conservation and walkers' bodies, who called for vigilance to protect Britain's newest park from creeping development.
'The South Downs National Park was achieved by a mixture of vision and persistence' said Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, Britain's oldest national conservation body, among those to attend the rally.
The event was to mark the second anniversary of the establishment of the national park, and the first anniversary of the national park authority taking up its statutory powers. Other speakers were Margaret Paren, chair of the park authority, and Benedict Southworth, chief executive of the Ramblers.
'Hundreds of people were involved, over decades, in the campaign for the South Downs National Park' said Kate Ashbrook. 'It was a huge achievement when park status was finally confirmed — a true example of collective action.'
'However, we cannot assume that this wonderful area is now safe. Here in the busy South East there are development pressures all around. Although National Parks fared well in the National Planning Policy Framework, which the government published last week, we cannot be complacent. Much will depend on how local authorities interpret the new wording. We must be vigilant and protect the landscape surrounding the national park as much as the park itself, to ensure that when we stand on high spots such as Butser Hill or Ditchling Beacon we do not see further suburbanisation creeping up to the park boundary.'
'And of course we must get out and enjoy this splendid, unique landscape and spread the word about this special place.'
In a press release issued by the National Park, authority chair Margaret Paren said:
'The South Downs National Park is a wonderful and unique place for all who live, work or visit here. Our job is to conserve and enhance it, while encouraging and supporting people to value and enjoy its special qualities. In our first year [as a fully fledged authority] we have been working closely with communities and organisations from right across the National Park on a wide range of exciting projects.'
'Our rangers, with the help of 300 volunteers giving 5000 days of their time, have lain 1,000 metres of hedgerow and cleared extensive areas of scrub to restore ancient chalk grassland.'
'Much remains to be done, after all we want the National Park to be here forever, and we will continue to work closely with people across the South Downs to build the best foundations for its future.'