The head of the Government’s review into national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) visited the South Downs last week as part of a fact-finding tour.
Over the course of the two days Julian Glover spoke with many different people directly involved with the South Downs National Park representing businesses, communities, farmers, schools, environmental groups, health walk leaders, landowners, developers, national park authority officers and national park rangers.
The review is looking at the current protections for national parks and AONBs, whether the current network should expand, how access can be improved, how those who live and work in these areas can be better supported, as well as exploring their role in growing the rural economy.
Mr Glover said: “It was a huge pleasure to walk along the South Downs in bright sunshine, explore some of the beautiful woodland, and meet national park rangers, farmers, walkers, local councillors and business people.
“Our new national park faces some big challenges but it’s making a difference. I hope the review I’m leading will help it do even more to protect the landscape while helping local people get the homes, jobs and opportunities they need.”
Margaret Paren, chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, added: “This is a welcome opportunity to introduce the review team to just some of the experiences of the people who visit, live and work in the national park – whose stories are as diverse as the South Downs’ landscapes themselves.
“In his announcement of the Government’s review the Secretary of State stressed that the review should make sure that national parks and AONBs are not only conserved, but also enhanced for the next generation.
“In this very short visit Julian Glover has had a taste of the variety of work done towards achieving that aim here in the South Downs National Park and we hope to welcome other members of his panel in future.”
Announcing the review in May, environment secretary Michael Gove said: “The creation of national parks almost 70 years ago changed the way we view our precious landscapes – helping us all access and enjoy our natural world.
“Amid a growing population, changes in technology, and a decline in certain habitats, the time is right for us to look afresh at these landscapes. We want to make sure they are not only conserved, but enhanced for the next generation.”
Mr Glover was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister David Cameron, has worked for The Guardian and served as a special advisor at the Department for Transport. He is now associate editor at the London Evening Standard.