Waverley Borough Council Home Page Waverley Borough Council Home Page


Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 19/02/2002
COUNTRYSIDE AGENCY: CONSULTATION
A SOUTH DOWNS NATIONAL PARK



The Countryside Agency has published a consultation document putting forward the South Downs as a National Park. No part of the proposed National Park lies within Waverley, although it does abut the Borough and County Boundary, south of Haslemere.

Views are sought on the administrative arrangements for the proposed National Park Authority and on the proposed draft boundary. This report sets out recommendations for forwarding to the Countryside Agency.

There are no direct resource, human rights, community safety or “Opportunities for All” implications arising from this consultation. The environmental implications are set out in the report.

APPENDIX F

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

ENVIRONMENT OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 19TH FEBRUARY 2002

________________________________________________________________________

Title:
COUNTRYSIDE AGENCY: CONSULTATION
A SOUTH DOWNS NATIONAL PARK

[Wards Affected: All]
________________________________________________________________________

Summary and Purpose

The Countryside Agency has published a consultation document putting forward the South Downs as a National Park. No part of the proposed National Park lies within Waverley, although it does abut the Borough and County Boundary, south of Haslemere.

Views are sought on the administrative arrangements for the proposed National Park Authority and on the proposed draft boundary. This report sets out recommendations for forwarding to the Countryside Agency.

There are no direct resource, human rights, community safety or “Opportunities for All” implications arising from this consultation. The environmental implications are set out in the report.

________________________________________________________________________

Introduction and Background

1. The Countryside Agency, which is responsible for designating National Parks, has begun the process of creating a National Park for the South Downs and part of the Weald. The idea is not new. In fact, the idea of a South Downs National Park was first proposed some 50 years ago.

2. There are currently eight national Parks in England (Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Lake District, Peak District, Northumberland, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales and the Broads). There are three National Parks in Wales (Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire Coast and Brecon Beacons) and two are being proposed for Scotland (Loch Lomond and the Grampians). Consideration is also being given to designating the New Forest.

3. National Parks are an internationally accepted concept designed to protect a nation’s finest landscapes and natural heritage and enable people to enjoy and understand them. They comprise outstanding areas of countryside, managed primarily to conserve their natural beauty, wildlife, history and cultural heritage.

4. The Environment Act 1995 defines their statutory purposes as:


to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park

to promote opportunities for the public to understand and enjoy the National Park.

5. It is intended that the South Downs National Park would act to address a wide range of conservation and visitor issues and promote understanding through information and interpretation.

6. The Countryside Agency believes that national park designation of the area is the best way to protect its special character, natural beauty, diversity and tranquillity. It would be different from other National Parks, not only because it would have more visitors and more residents (between 60,000 and 80,000 people) than any other National Park, but also because about 1 million people live in its immediate hinterland and 10 million live within one hour’s drive time. It is also subject to more intensive agricultural practices and greater development pressures than any other National Park, and has, over the last 50 years suffered considerable wildlife and habitat loss.

7. The proposed National Park would extend from the eastern edge of Winchester in the west through parts of Hampshire and East and West Sussex to Beachy Head and the western edge of Eastbourne in the east, a distance of some 73 miles. The proposed National Park boundary runs along the county boundary to the south of Haslemere. No part of the proposed National Park includes any land within Waverley.

8. The proposed National Park Boundary is shown on the Plan attached at Annexe 1.

9. The Countryside Agency believes that the best way of protecting the fine landscape of this area is to designate it as a National Park, with the increased powers and resources that designation convey. The consultation document seeks views on the administrative arrangements for the proposed National Park Authority and on the proposed draft boundary. Comments are required by 28th February 2002.

Issues for Consideration

National Park Authority

10. A full National Park Authority (NPA) is proposed comprising 46 Members (including 24 elected Councillors and 22 members appointed by the Secretary of State, including Parish Councillors and individual local people with specific local expertise). This will ensure that all local authorities are involved and that there is an appropriate number of people with their own expertise.

11. As no part of Waverley Borough is included within the proposed boundary, it is not appropriate for this Council to make any comment on this issue.

Role in Forward Planning and Development Control

12. The NPA would be the sole planning authority for the area, having responsibility for Structure and Local Plans as well as for Minerals and Waste Local Plans. The long and narrow shape of the proposed National Park; the fact that many strategic roads cut across (rather than run through) the proposed National Park; its administrative complexity (traversing as it does through three counties and fringing the edges of Brighton and Hove Unitary Council area) mean that a joint approach to strategic planning is required. Notwithstanding the possible changes to strategic and regional planning proposed in the recent Planning Green Paper, it is proposed that joint structure plans are prepared (one for each County), with common strategic policies in each.

13. A joint approach to strategic planning (within the regional planning framework) is essential to ensure that plans and proposals for the National Park are prepared having full regard to the proposed National Park’s interlinkages with the surrounding areas. For similar reasons, joint minerals and waste local plans are proposed. As regards a Local Plan (or Local Development Framework), it is essential that there is a single set of policies applied seamlessly across the National Park area.

14. Such an approach would assist authorities on the fringe of the National Park, such as Waverley, to assess fully the impact of National Park policies on their areas. Of particular concern are issues regarding the impact of the National Park on hotel and visitor accommodation and on neighbouring “honeypots”, such as Frensham Ponds and the Devil’s Punchbowl, which may experience increased visitor pressure as a spin-off from the National Park. There may also be an impact on neighbouring towns and countryside areas, such as those around Haslemere, which may experience increased pressures for housing, minerals, waste and other developments such as telecommunications masts which may be forced to locate outside the National Park because of restrictive policies within it.

15. The question regarding whether decisions on individual planning applications should be delegated to local authorities is not one which Waverley needs to consider.

Land Management

16. How land is looked after is crucial to the conservation of the unique landscape within the proposed National Park. The proposed NPA will have a crucial role in working with landowners, farmers and statutory and voluntary landowners in seeking to restore damaged landscapes and habitats and to develop integrated management and conservation plans.

Visitor Management

17. With the one million people in its hinterland and 10 million within an hour’s drive time, the proposed NPA will have a crucial role in managing transport and traffic access into and within the National Park. It is proposed that the NPA should work jointly with local highway authorities to prepare Local Transport Plans.

18. It is not intended that the proposed NPA would be the tourism authority, but that it should work with tourist authorities to prepare joint tourism strategies.

19. It seems inconsistent that the NPA should have statutory authority to prepare joint structure plans, but that the preparation of joint transport plans and joint tourism strategies are given a lower profile. If the NPA is to discharge its statutory responsibilities comprehensively, its role in producing joint LTPs and joint Tourism strategies should be given more prominence.

20. The consultation document proposes that the proposed NPA should monitor its own performance against annual targets and seeks the guidance of the Secretary of State on this matter.

Working in Partnership and Involving Local People

21. The consultation document recognises that, if the NPA is to achieve its objectives, it needs “to work closely with local authorities, statutory and voluntary bodies within and around the national park boundary, and across the region and beyond”. This could include secondments, staff exchanges, agreements and protocols.

22. It also proposes an annual public forum and public events to debate important issues and to create partnerships with education authorities.

Draft Boundary

23. The draft National Park boundary is ringed by a number of towns, cities and larger villages including Winchester, New Alresford, Four Marks, Alton, Bordon, Liphook, Haslemere, Wisborough Green, Pulborough, Storrington, Steyning, Hurstpierpoint, Hassocks, Eastbourne, Newhaven, Brighton, Hove, Worthing, Littlehampton, Barnham, Chichester, Horndean and Bishop’s Waltham. Whilst one would not expect Petersfield, Midhurst or Petworth to be excluded as they are well within the proposed National Park area, it is curious that the town of Lewes, which is on the edge of the proposed National Park, is included within the National Park. The reason given is that Lewes is a historic town which, despite much recent development, still retains strong visual and historic links the Downs landscape and offers significant tourist facilities and sustainable transport options.

24. These characteristics are not unique to Lewes and indeed there is much development on the edge of Lewes which is indistinguishable from other towns on the fringes of the National Park which have been excluded. To include Lewes would therefore seem inconsistent.

25. The need for a more strategic and holistic approach to tourism and leisure has already been mentioned. Whilst it would not be appropriate to include within the proposed National Park high landscape areas such as the Devil’s Punchbowl which provide a more locally important leisure resource, it would be appropriate for consideration to be given to including Chichester Harbour within the National Park because of its regionally important leisure resource role. This would enable the preparation of integrated landscape, habitat and leisure/tourist policies for both the South Downs and the Harbour.

Conclusion

26. The proposed National Park offers the opportunity for seamless policies across one of the finest landscapes in the country. Whilst the administrative arrangements deal with the strategic and local planning and development control issues in some depth, the role of the proposed National Park is broader than just landscape, ecology and determination of planning applications. It also includes strategic transport, traffic, tourism and leisure issues. Given that the proposed National Park boundary will abut Waverley and having regard to the potential “knock-on“ effects, identified in paragraph 14, regarding important landscape and leisure resources within this Borough, greater consideration should be given to the impact of the proposed National Park on sensitive environments and leisure resources beyond its boundaries.

27. The proposed administrative arrangements should therefore include fuller proposals for dealing with the strategic transport, traffic, tourism and leisure issues in a holistic, co-ordinated and comprehensive manner. This should include consideration of including Chichester Harbour within the proposed National Park.

28. Whilst in general the proposed draft boundary can be supported, in the interests of consistency, further consideration should be given to the exclusion of Lewes from within the proposed National Park.

Recommendation

It is recommended that any comments or observations on the report be forwarded to the Executive for consideration.

________________________________________________________________________

Background Papers (DoPD)

Countryside Agency: A South Downs National Park: Public Consultation Report November 2001

________________________________________________________________________

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Peter Hartley Telephone: 01483 523297
E-mail: phartley@waverley.gov.uk