Sunday, April 22, 2007

Should we be a National Park ?

As I've canvassed in Rogate, Milland and Rake over the last few weeks (and particularly at the Rogate village newcomers party last night), there has been more interest in whether we should support the proposed South Downs National Park than anything else.

On the one side, some people I know at all levels of local government are concerned that the National Park will make us into some form of playground for tourists, deprive local government of power and mean that local people have even less control of their own lives than they do now.

On the other hand, I can see a strong argument which says that becoming a National Park (while it only theoretically provides the same level of protection as being an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - such as we already are) actually provides a greater breakwater against the tide of development sweeping Southern England. Sadly this tide of development is likely to be strengthened by the measures Brown plans (see earlier blog) to encourage landowners to become property developers.

At present the District Council is too often overruled, on appeal, when it refuses consent to what it feels will be a damaging development. My suspicion is that, rightly or wrongly, a South Downs National Park authority is less likely to be overruled. If that is the case, we may be better off with a National Parks authority than without.

Local democracy is another difficult issue. My understanding is that all ordinary planning applications are likely to remain with the District Council (with Parish Council input) in the first instance if we have a National Park. If this is the case then many objections to the National Park fall away.

What of tourism ? I suspect many of us dread the thought of Harting Down despoiled by a large coach park encouraging tourists to come and stare at the view. Whether such things happen will depend to a large extent on the National Park authority but I think we have to hope that those who give their time to such a venture will seek to preserve and enhance our natural environment rather than simply providing amenities for tourists.

I'd welcome your views on this topic. I incline towards welcoming a National Park but am open to arguments on both side.


Post a Comment

<< Home