The South Downs Society has organised a special walk at Queen Elizabeth country park, Hampshire, for environmental pressure group 38 Degrees in support of its campaign, with CNP, against government budget cuts for the country’s national parks. CNP has issued a press release as follows:
National Parks will welcome hundreds of people this weekend as part of a unique partnership between the Campaign for National Parks and pressure group 38 Degrees to highlight our Stop the Cuts campaign.
Walks have been set up in all ten of the English National Parks to enable people to meet together to learn more about the challenges facing our precious landscapes and to enjoy the glorious countryside.
The South Downs 5km walk has been set up by our sister organisation, the South Downs Society. It starts in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and includes a fairly steep uphill climb to the top of Butser Hill, which at 270m is the highest point on the South Downs chalk ridge and the second highest within the National Park.
National Park Authorities have had their Government budgets cut by up to 40% in real terms over the past five years and there is real concern that Defra – the lead Department for National Parks – will have to make huge cuts to meet the Government’s £20bn savings plan over the lifetime of this parliament.
Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, said she was delighted that so many people were taking part in the walks to help promote the huge challenges facing National Park Authorities.
“National Parks are among the most beautiful and valued landscapes in the British Isles, containing some of our most breath-taking scenery, rare wildlife and cultural heritage. Ninety million visits are made to them every year, with people eager to enjoy their iconic landscapes, uninterrupted views and tranquillity.
“Our Parks are living landscapes, home to diverse communities, and must be conserved for the benefit of all – both now and in the future. That is why we are leading a campaign calling on the Government to stop cutting funding for the English National Parks and to make sure National Park Authorities have enough money to protect our most iconic landscapes for future generations.
“To deal with the huge funding cuts National Park Authorities have been forced to cut back on the maintenance of footpaths, close visitor centre and reduce funding for flood protection, forestry, climate change, education and ranger services.”
Robert Cheesman, South Downs Society chair, said: “As the Friends group for the South Downs National Park, we campaigned vigorously for the creation of the National Park and we believe the new Park Authority needs the resources to do its job of caring for this precious landscape.
“We are wholly behind the efforts of the Campaign for National Park and 38 Degrees in calling on government to protect the National Parks from damaging budget cuts, and we are delighted to arrange a special walk for their supporters. A well cared for National Park is good for the local economy and vital for local communities.”
The walk comes a fortnight after the annual National Parks Week when the Minister Rory Stewart MP, described National Parks as the soul of Britain and as areas which brought together the environment, traditional farming communities, tourists and elements of our history, poetry and literature.
“I would like to work very closely with National Parks and the British public to make sure everybody in Britain has the unique experience of going to one of our National Parks,” he said in a You Tube video.
Ms Howie welcomed the Minister’s words but said warm words were not enough: “We recognise that National Parks need to continue to evolve and we know they are being proactive about accessing new sources of funding. But National parks are national assets and the Government needs to give them sufficient resources to make sure they continue to deliver important environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits to the nation,” she stressed.