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Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008

Park Life

David Mills
The Politics Show
South East

Cuckmere
Cuckmere - the scenic South Downs beauty spot.

Sixty years of waiting for a National Park on the South Downs could soon be over.

The question of whether the South Downs should become a National Park has been debated by policymakers and campaigners over six decades.

But there are signs that the saga may now be drawing to a conclusion.

On Friday 28 November 2008 a report on the matter from the Planning Inspector was sent to the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.

Proposed South Downs National Park
The proposed South Downs National Park.

He is expected to consider it and make a decision by early Summer 2009.

Even this represents a delay - earlier in 2008, his Department was saying that a decision would be taken in the first few months of next year.

Calls for a National Park

With an end to their campaign potentially in sight, supporters of a new National Park are not letting up.

On Monday 1 December, the South Downs Campaign will send out 250,000 postcards out to its supporters.

Each one bears a picture of a part of the South Downs, and is pre-addressed to the Secretary of State, urging him to create England's tenth National Park.

Farmer Ben Taylor
Farmer Ben Taylor has concerns about National Park status.

But support for National Park status is far from unanimous.

The Politics Show's reporter Helen Drew spoke to Ben Taylor, a farmer near Lewes, who is concerned that the extra visitors attracted by National Park status will cause problems.

For example, he is concerned that people wandering near livestock may bring dogs which could disturb his animals.

He also fears that planning constraints will be tightened, making it difficult for him to make alterations to buildings on his farm.

Negative impact?

Tighter regulation is something which also concerns Mark Froud, Chief Executive of Sussex Enterprise.

He believes that National Park status could have a negative impact on the local economy, with small businesses finding the National Park regulations so restrictive that they get fed up and move out of the area.

It is something which he has experienced in other National Parks where he has worked.

South Downs
Park protection - National Park supporters are campaigning in the South Downs.

On Sunday morning, our presenter Paul Siegert will be joined by Chris Todd from the South Downs Campaign, who is in favour of National Park status being awarded.

Also in the studio will be Ben Underwood from the Country Land and Business Association, who is worried about the impact which it could have on country businesses.

Also featured...

It is a week when many commuters in the region reacted angrily to the news that that they would be facing inflation-busting fares increases on South Eastern trains from January 2009.

Transport Minister Paul Clark - who is also MP for Gillingham and Rainham - will discuss the issue with Tunde Olatunji, Kent and Eurostar manager for Passenger Focus, the consumer watchdog for train passengers.

Train ticket
Ticket to ride but at what price?

And we will also be covering the evolving story surrounding the arrest of Ashford MP and Shadow Home Affairs Minister Damian Green.

If you have got any views or comments on the South Downs, train fare increases in the region or the arrest of Damian Green, we would love to hear from you.

Email us on politicsshowsoutheast@bbc.co.uk or text in on 07786 209252 during the show.

Watch the Politics Show on BBC One at 12:00 GMT on Sundays.

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