South Downs National Park: 10th Anniversary

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:19 pm on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 7:19 pm, 12th January 2021

It is a pleasure to see you again, Madam Deputy Speaker; I have not been in the Chamber for quite some time.

I very much thank my hon. Friend Andrew Griffith for securing this important and timely debate, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the designation of South Downs national park—our newest addition to the national park family. How wonderful to have such a large chunk of this wonderful landscape in one’s constituency. Lots of people would covet that. I am very pleased to join in celebrating the anniversary and to share in the praise of this wonderful landscape. I join in thanking all those who have been involved in this journey to protect and improve the national park throughout the 10 years; my hon. Friend name-checked a number of the key people involved along the way.

While I am praising people for things in the countryside, I would like also to praise and thank all those who have worked so hard to conserve and enhance our beautiful English countryside, particularly all the volunteers who give so much of their time to look after our countryside. About 45,000 days annually are given by volunteers not just to our protected landscapes, but all over the country. Indeed, there are also a lot of education officers, who have been working to give over 10,000 school visits to national parks every year. That has obviously been slightly curtailed over the past 10 months because of the pandemic, but it has been really valuable work, giving our young people a much-needed brush with nature. Our national parks have played such an important role in bringing the countryside to so many people.

National parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are treasured landscapes in England. They are steeped in history and each has its own individual identity, which is what makes them so interesting. They also tend to have their own individual communities and heritage. A lot of that comes initially from the underlying geology. There is a lot of chalk in the South Downs, and that influences the biodiversity and nature to which I am pleased my hon. Friend referred. He mentioned wonderful creatures, such as—what was it? The wart-bitter bush cricket?