Abolish the new South Downs National Park Authority before it grows out of control like all bureaucracies. That means we could cut spending of its £8 million budget and return to the £2 million that was necessary before – when there was more accountability.
My instinct is that a one paragraph bill is appropriate to abolish the SDNP and revert to the previous arrangements of a South Downs Joint Committee together with the Area of Outstanding National Beauty designation would reduce public expenditure by more than £6 million annually and preserve all the public benefits claimed for its creation provided the bill offers a couple of relatively minor tweaks – of benefit to all Conservation Bodies.
I'd support securing a reasonable level of funding for all conservation boards (or cancel their status if unworthy) to enable necessary conservation activities to continue. I'd especially like to see conservation boards granted similar powers to those of National Parks to raise additional funds. Bodies like Cycling, Rambling and Climbing Association, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, National Trust, and of course unfair shares of the Eurocracies funds such as Life+. We might assist all these bodies in raising such funds by taking a notably successful body – Peak District NP springs to mind – and 'persuading' them to be a focal advisor on such fund raising.
I sought the reasoned views of the most knowledgable and very distinguished official known to me (who needs to remain anonymous) to represent the case, shown in the five points below for the SDNP being
1. The South Downs Joint Committee (formerly the Sussex Downs Conservation Board) was formed by the Countryside Commission in about 1991 as an experiment in managing AONB's. It was such a success that the (New Labour) Government put a requirement in the CROW Act 2002 that such Conservation Boards should be established in other AONB's. At the same time the (New Labour*) Government was saying that the South Downs should be a National Park.
2. The SDJC operated last year (my alteration of tense) on a budget of about £1.5m – a bargain compared with the NP budget.
3. The Local Authorities have done, and would continue to do a good job planning in the South Downs – very few examples of poor decisions can be found by those who seek to criticise the planning operation.
4. There is no difference in the level of protection afforded in planning terms to AONBs and National Parks, so those who think things will tighten up once a NP Planning Authority is establish will be disappointed.
5. With around 32 million visitors a year to the Downs the last thing they need is promoting.