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National Park Authority objects to Arundel bypass schemes: press release

At its meeting on 19 October the South Downs National Park Authority resolved to object to Highways England’s three options for a new Arundel bypass because of their significant adverse impact on the national park. The following press release has subsequently been issued jointly by Arundel SCATE (South Coast Alliance on Transport and the Environment) and ABNC (Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee). It quotes the South Downs Society and other organisations.


National Park objects to A27 Bypass – Campaigners slam Highways ‘narrow focus’ 

The South Downs National Park Authority has voted to object to all three options for the Arundel A27 Improvements Scheme. All options go through the National Park.  The Authority wants Highways England to do more work on assessing, mitigating and compensating the impacts, as well as alternatives, before it will even rank the options.

Local community and environmental organisation representatives spoke at the full Authority meeting.  Nick Herbert MP claimed that an offline bypass at Arundel should be seen as a “National Park Relief Road”, but other speakers disagreed. “Any traffic diverted from other parts of the Park would still be travelling through the National Park, but faster, more noisily and on a high embankment”, countered Mike Tristram, a member of the Park Partnership and Binsted campaigner.

“This is not a plan for reduced congestion,” added Tony Whitbread of the Sussex Wildlife Trust. “It is a plan for increased traffic, which will spread throughout the National Park. Imagine Midhurst, Petworth, Pulborough and Storrington all with 20 per cent more traffic.”

Steve Ankers spoke for the South Downs Society, the Campaign for National Parks and CPRE Sussex. “Highways England’s recent consultation was fundamentally flawed by its narrow focus on a bypass to take traffic off the existing bypass.  Our focus is on the impact on the National Park, its statutory Purposes and Special Qualities.  We also don’t believe that the options presented will solve Arundel’s traffic and access issues.  We strongly object to all three options on the table.  Our heaviest criticisms are of options 3 and 5A, and we have asked for the ‘New Purple’ variations on option 1 to be taken seriously.”

Mike Tristram agreed.  “Highways England has failed to properly analyse impacts on the Park’s Special Qualities.  Having ‘regard to the Park’s Purposes’ is a legal requirement, but they won’t have this unless they assess the impacts of all options thoroughly before choosing a preferred route. The next stage is too late.”

Kay Wagland, an elected Arundel Town Councillor but speaking as chair of local group Arundel Scate, agreed. “We wholly oppose the offline options 3 and 5A.  Both are highly destructive of communities, irreplaceable species, habitats and features.  They are a huge waste of money, and unlikely to ease congestion in the long run.   We object to Option 1’s dualling, but support its alignment, which matches our preferred single carriageway ‘New Purple’ route.

“We are also concerned about Highways England’s narrow focus and poor quality data, including unreliable traffic figures  and large gaps in environmental data.  The public has not been sufficiently informed. The Department for Transport should allow work on more integrated transport solutions. The A27 needs to be better not bigger.”

Dr Mike Davis from Walberton, a regular walker in Binsted and Tortington, said,  “I cannot accept that option 5A on a high embankment, visible night and day, in such a beautiful setting, pays any regard at all to the Special Qualities of the South Downs National Park. The few minutes saved by option 5A cost over twice as much as those saved by option 1 and cause far worse damage. This degrading of the National Park is not justified.”

Highways England will now be looking at the consultation responses. They have to decide in the light of what they have been told, whether or not they can now recommend a preferred option through the National Park.

For more online information about affected areas see:               

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STOP THE CUTS: Campaign for National Parks and 38 Degrees join forces for South Downs walk to highlight the effects of the Government cuts on National Park services

The South Downs Society has organised a special walk at Queen Elizabeth country park, Hampshire, for environmental pressure group 38 Degrees in support of its campaign, with CNP, against government budget cuts for the country’s national parks.  CNP has issued a press release as follows:

National Parks will welcome hundreds of people this weekend as part of a unique partnership between the Campaign for National Parks and pressure group 38 Degrees to highlight our Stop the Cuts campaign.

Walks have been set up in all ten of the English National Parks to enable people to meet together to learn more about the challenges facing our precious landscapes and to enjoy the glorious countryside.

The South Downs 5km walk has been set up by our sister organisation, the South Downs Society. It starts in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and includes a fairly steep uphill climb to the top of Butser Hill, which at 270m is the highest point on the South Downs chalk ridge and the second highest within the National Park.

National Park Authorities have had their Government budgets cut by up to 40% in real terms over the past five years and there is real concern that Defra – the lead Department for National Parks – will have to make huge cuts to meet the Government’s £20bn savings plan over the lifetime of this parliament.

Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, said she was delighted that so many people were taking part in the walks to help promote the huge challenges facing National Park Authorities.

“National Parks are among the most beautiful and valued landscapes in the British Isles, containing some of our most breath-taking scenery, rare wildlife and cultural heritage. Ninety million visits are made to them every year, with people eager to enjoy their iconic landscapes, uninterrupted views and tranquillity.

“Our Parks are living landscapes, home to diverse communities, and must be conserved for the benefit of all – both now and in the future. That is why we are leading a campaign calling on the Government to stop cutting funding for the English National Parks and to make sure National Park Authorities have enough money to protect our most iconic landscapes for future generations.

“To deal with the huge funding cuts National Park Authorities have been forced to cut back on the maintenance of footpaths, close visitor centre and reduce funding for flood protection, forestry, climate change, education and ranger services.”

Robert Cheesman, South Downs Society chair, said: “As the Friends group for the South Downs National Park, we campaigned vigorously for the creation of the National Park and we believe the new Park Authority needs the resources to do its job of caring for this precious landscape.

“We are wholly behind the efforts of the Campaign for National Park and 38 Degrees in calling on government to protect the National Parks from damaging budget cuts, and we are delighted to arrange a special walk for their supporters. A well cared for National Park is good for the local economy and vital for local communities.”

The walk comes a fortnight after the annual National Parks Week when the Minister Rory Stewart MP, described National Parks as the soul of Britain and as areas which brought together the environment, traditional farming communities, tourists and elements of our history, poetry and literature.

“I would like to work very closely with National Parks and the British public to make sure everybody in Britain has the unique experience of going to one of our National Parks,” he said in a You Tube video.

Ms Howie welcomed the Minister’s words but said warm words were not enough: “We recognise that National Parks need to continue to evolve and we know they are being proactive about accessing new sources of funding. But National parks are national assets and the Government needs to give them sufficient resources to make sure they continue to deliver important environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits to the nation,” she stressed.


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United we stand!

In our efforts to protect the South Downs landscape for this and future generations we never lose sight of being one of a network of national park societies across the country, each fighting the good fight– ever conscious that a threat to any one of the parks may be a threat to all. If a planning decision is made which favours “growth” over conservation in one national park, a dangerous precedent may be set for future decisions elsewhere.

The North York Moors national park is facing a major threat from proposals to work “polyhalite” — known as the “potash mine”. The submitted scheme includes underground tunneling, a mineshaft, ventilation shafts, the spreading of spoil, erection of buildings, access roads, parking and a helicopter landing site, with potentially major impact on the landscape of the national park and its quiet enjoyment. The park’s Planning Committee is meeting on 30 June to consider the application.

Co-ordinated by the Campaign for National Parks (CNP), the national park societies around the country — and many other environmental organisations — have campaigned vigorously against this threat, and the South Downs Society has been a committed partner in these efforts.

Steve Ankers, Policy Officer


Click HERE for the report from its Planning Officer which will be considered by the Committee.

Click HERE for the letter submitted to the Committee on our behalf by CNP, with this Society as a co-signatory.

See the CNP website and its media release HERE.

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National park hosts MP fact finding visit

Group PhotoT

The Society has today, 2 March, issued the following press release:


National park “Friends” group, the South Downs Society, has hosted a visit from shadow minister Barry Gardiner MP at Seven Sisters Country Park. The MP was responding to receipt of  “National Parks in the 21st Century: a manifesto for the next Westminster Government”, produced by the Campaign for National Parks (CNP).

 Each national park has its own supportive society, raising funds and campaigning to conserve the special park landscape. CNP is the national umbrella organisation for the national park societies.

 Says South Downs Society chairman, Robert Cheesman, “The manifesto aims to highlight to politicians the vital role the national parks play in the local economy as well as in people’s recreation and enjoyment, and their need for strong planning protection and secure funding. We will be sending it out to prospective parliamentary candidates locally and CNP has circulated it to national politicians of all parties in advance of the general election. Barry Gardiner wanted to hear more and to share his thoughts on possible future legislation and funding for the national parks and our Society was very happy to host his meeting with CNP and local environmental groups in the South Downs.”

 Poor weather and the MP’s tight timetable rather put a dampener on plans to explore the country park and its iconic river meanders but those attending found the meeting very helpful.

 Says Robert Cheesman, “These irreplaceable national assets need friends in high places as well as local support. Whichever party or parties may be in power after the election, it is essential that the national parks are safeguarded and that all sectors of the community are able to appreciate and enjoy them. I believe Mr. Gardiner was taking careful note of what we all had to say.”



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Making contributions to affordable housing in National Parks

Defined as new housing made available at lower than current market price to reflect local ability to pay, “affordable housing” is seen as one way of helping local people to stay close to the communities in which they grew up, often providing important services within those communities. Accordingly, planning policies are often more favourably disposed towards the provision of such dwellings than to new four or five bedroom houses, more likely to be bought by “incomers”. And especially so in the national parks, where there will usually be a presumption against building large numbers of new houses.

Because they do not yield the same profit as “market” housing, the building of affordable homes is often subsidised by the former, and planning authorities require an appropriate contribution to affordable housing. Government has consulted recently on establishing a size threshold (minimum 10 houses), below which a new development would not be required to make any financial contribution to affordable provision. Our concern is that house prices in the national parks are generally higher than elsewhere and the need for affordable homes is marked. Also, most new housing developments in the parks tend to be small, so the removal of this obligation for small developments to make a contribution could make it more difficult to provide the level of affordable housing needed to support local communities. Through our national “umbrella” body, the Campaign for National Parks, we have submitted our objection to this proposal in terms of its application in national parks.  Click HERE to see the full CNP response.