10-year anniversary of signing the order that confirmed South Downs National Park

More than 100 people gathered in Ditchling to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the signing the order that confirmed South Downs National Park.

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 11:42 am

On November 12, 2009, the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, signed the South Downs National Park Confirmation Order at The Nutmeg Tree Café in West Street, Ditchling.

The order came into effect on March 31, 2010 and the National Park was born.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the signing of the order and the South Downs Network which evolved out of the South Downs Campaign held a celebration event at Ditchling Village Hall on Monday (November 11).

Margaret Paren, chairman of the National Park Authority and Lord Bassam of Brighton who unveiled the plaque on behalf of Hilary Benn

There were celebratory speeches and a carved stone plaque was unveiled, which will be placed on the café building where the original signing took place.

Tom Dufty, former chairman of the Ditchling Society, and one of the main organisers of the celebration said: “Ditchling is immensely grateful to Hilary Benn for including it in the National Park against the advice from the inspector.

“We regret that he is not able to attend the celebration event but for this act he will forever be our small ‘p’ prime Minister.

“We were proud to have been chosen as the location for such an historical event as the creation of a new National Park. Future generations of residents and visitors will learn of it through the plaque we are mounting on the building in which the signing took place.

“We look forward now on the tenth anniversary to welcoming those who worked so hard to make it happen.”

Tony Whitbread, chairmain of the South Downs Network, said: “The creation of the South Downs National Park marked the culmination of a 70-year struggle to get the proper protection for this magnificent landscape.

“It was a hard fought campaign with many highs and lows but it was ultimately successful.

“Now the Park Authority is firmly established we look forward to the next 70 years with greater optimism.”

Many campaigners involved in the struggle attended the celebration on Monday, along with local dignitaries.

With the calling of the General Election, Hilary Benn could not attend. However, Lord Bassam of Brighton read out the letter that Hilary Benn had written to organisers.

Robin Crane, chairman of the South Downs Campaign and Margaret Paren, chairman of the South Downs National Park Authority, also said a few words.