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New South Downs national park

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A postcard in the campaign to create the South Downs national park.

Sixty years ago, legislation gave rise to national parks, and for the last 60 years people have been campaigning for this park. Supported by Bill Bryson, among others, thousands of postcards and petitions flooded into Smith Square.

The government recently announced that the new South Downs national park will include "a tract of countryside between Winchester and Eastbourne of rolling chalk uplands, river valleys and wooded greens", "an area of 627 square miles" that includes the Western Weald and Lewes and is home to around 120,000 people.

It's full of historic memories. To name one - Montfort fought at Lewes with a broken leg, captured Henry III and Prince Edward, and was on his way to establishing the first Parliament in England.

We mentioned below that we wished the government would respond to the wishes of the people. We were thinking of the government's refusal to hold the promised referendum on the EU. In the case of the South Downs, the government did respond.

It's a beautiful place. The millions of homes which the government insists will be built in Britain to handle vast numbers of immigrants will not be built there. Consequently they will be built somewhere else, in other well-loved places.

I remember that my co-editor strove to protect an area near Winchester that was supposed to be protected by the government under a designation of special scientific interest (SSSI). He was illegally arrested. The police later apologized and paid damages, but the (Conservative) government drove a huge motorway through that lovely place.

On the one hand the government allows millions of people to flood into Britain. On the other hand it sets aside a park. What the government gives it can take away - sometimes at the same time.

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You save what you can. Robert Byron might be pleased.

David adds: A national park in Britain is quite different from a national park in America. The land remains in private ownership, but all the normal planning rules are centralized and are removed from local accountability. If the Brown government decides that certain people are underrepresented in the national park area, as I read this legislation, there would be little to stop them from building a new town in the park "to redress the balance". Hope for the best, but where people have little say, great wrongs can be done.

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