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Brighton park campaigners given boost
Campaigners fighting for a city beauty spot to be included in the new South Downs National Park have been given new cause for optimism.
A Government inspector admitted yesterday the decision to leave out Green Ridge, the area between the A27 and the suburb of Westdene, north Brighton, from the proposed park boundaries had been made without key information in mind.
Robert Neil-Parry, from the planning inspectorate, said he would reconsider his recommendation to Environment Secretary Hilary Benn in the light of new evidence.
He spoke at a public inquiry at the Chatsworth Hotel, in The Steyne, Worthing, held to consider a raft of proposed amendments to the national park map, which was unveiled by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in March.
They included extensions of the boundary to include Green Ridge as well as Patcham Recreation Ground, the A27's embankments and areas around Roedean Crescent, in Brighton.
Changes at Gote Farm, in Ringmer, near Lewes, land around the Southwick Tunnel, near Portslade, Castle Goring and areas East of Titnore Lane, in Worthing, part of Alice Holt Forest, in Hampshire, and fields at Plumpton, near Lewes, were also considered.
Campaign group Keep The Ridge Green had protested after the Brighton beauty spot was abruptly cut from the park plans in the final draft with no prior warning.
They believe its natural environment and wildlife habitats should be given the protection from development that national park status would provide.
Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper, who spoke at the inquiry on behalf of residents, said: "It's an area which exhibits all of the downland landscape features other parts which have been included have. It has a Saxon hedge and a dew pond. It acts as a gateway from the city into the South Downs."
Keep The Ridge Green campaign secretary Maureen Holt, Margaret Paren, of the South Downs Campaign, and Elizabeth Thomas, of Brighton and Hove City Council all also presented evidence in favour of including the area.
They pointed out that Green Ridge was part of a wider Site of Nature Conservation Importance which would be split up by the national park boundary.
Mr Neil-Parry admitted he had been unaware of the designation when the boundaries were drawn up and said it was an important consideration.
After the meeting Mrs Holt said: "We're cautiously optimistic. The inspector was receptive to what we were saying and sounded like he was willing to recommend a change. Now we have to wait and see."
Mr Neil-Parry said Defra had asked for his report within a "short" timescale. He will be making site visits in the next few days. The department is expected to announce finalised boundaries in September.
Campaigners have urged DEFRA to make the following changes to the proposed South Downs National Park IN: Green Ridge, Brighton A27 embankments, Brighton and Hove Land around the Southwick Tunnel, Portslade Part of fields at Plumpton, near Lewes Land around Roedean Crescent, Brighton Patcham Recreation Ground, Brighton Gote Farm, Ringmer, near Lewes Castle Goring and land East of Titnore Lane, Worthing OUT: Part of field at Plumpton, near Lewes Part of Alice Holt Forest, Hampshire The finalised park boundary is due to be revealed in September.