Six months before the last election, environment secretary Hilary Benn was thrilled to confirm the South Downs as a national park; he signed the confirmation papers at Ditchling in East Sussex on 12 November 2009.
He knew that this result was badly wanted, the culmination of a 60+-year campaign, and he was proud to be able to deliver the people’s dream of a national park for the superlative South Downs.
As the next Westminster election approaches, ministers have another opportunity to make an extremely popular move. The extension of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks has been awaiting confirmation for 18 months since the report of the public inquiry, held in June 2012, was passed to ministers. The extensions are supported by 93 per cent of those who responded to the final consultation in 2012.
The proposed extensions would link the two parks, embracing the northern Howgills and the exquisite limestone hills around Orton, the Lune Valley and many other superb landscapes which richly deserve such designation.
As the Campaign for National Parks points out, the decision on the park extensions is urgently needed.
Why are ministers sitting on the papers? Surely they want to have something popular to announce before the election. These national park extensions are a great opportunity. Now is the time for them to act for the benefit of us all, before election purdah descends and activity ceases.