Two councils have defended their reasons for objecting to a national park in the closing stages of an inquiry.

The public inquiry in Worthing about the boundary of the proposed South Downs national park is approaching completion after weeks of debates.

The park could provide downland with greater protection from development but would take large areas out of local authorities' control.

A submission from Robert Griffiths, QC, for the Countryside Agency, suggested West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council opposed the creation of a national park because they wanted to keep planning powers over downland.

Rhodri Price Lewis, QC, for the two authorities, said: "If the councils were persuaded becoming a national park was the best way of protecting and managing the South Downs, they would fully support the measures needed to bring that about.

"The concern of the councils is not which body should do the planning and management of the area but that it should be done efficiently and democratically for the benefit of people within the councils' area."