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National Park plan for Jurassic coast in doubt

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: June 13, 2013

By JOHN GOODWIN

  • The ancient cliffs of the Jurassic Coast are popular for sites such as Durdle Door and Golden Cap

  • Fossil hunter Mary Anning made some of her most famous finds near Charmouth on the Jurassic Coast

  • The beaches onteh Dorset coast, such as here at Charmouth, are popular with walkers, swimmers and fossil hunters

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A council looks set to reject overtures from campaigners keen to establish a third National Park in the West Country, stretching from Dorset into Devon along the Jurassic coastline.

The Dorset and East Devon National Park Group wants to create a new park zone – the 14th in England – encompassing two areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and straddling the border between the two counties.

It has asked Natural England to consider the feasibility of a scheme first mooted in 1945 but thwarted by "administrative difficulties".

Spokesman Marilyn Larthe has also written to the chief executive of East Devon District Council asking for support at the "very early stage" of a long process, possibly taking ten to 20 years.

However, the local authority says the idea is "contentious" and could have "fundamental impacts" on service provision and future development and use of land. The cabinet was set to consider the request last night, but officials have recommended it opposes the proposals because they would result in a loss in "planning powers" and a reduced budget.

An officers' report said that the council was "satisfied" that the existing AONB and World Heritage Coast status gave sufficient protection, while allowing the council to "manage its own planning functions and allow appropriate and sensitive change and development".

Growth in the economy and the provision of affordable housing were also potentially at risk under the plans, it said.

There are currently 13 National Parks, including Dartmoor and Exmoor.

The most recent in the South Downs hills was designated in 2009 and came into effect in 2011. It stretches just over 100 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne, covering 15 local authority areas, and is now the eighth largest planning authority in the country with a population of more than 100,000 people.

However, only significant planning applications are decided by the park authority's planners, with the majority left to the local council committees.

Phil Belden, director of operations for the South Downs National Park Authority, said it was designated to ensure that its special landscapes, culture and wildlife are looked after.

"Having National Park status gives the South Downs long term security with a permanent body that ensures consistency in areas such as planning," he added.

"As a National Park Authority our most important roles are to support the communities of the South Downs to conserve and enhance the area and encourage more people to discover, understand and explore it responsibly."

A spokesman for West Dorset District Council said it was aware of the plans but had yet to be formally consulted.

The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site. It stretches from Orcombe Point near Exmouth in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks near Swanage in East Dorset, a distance of 155 kilometres.

The very best of a stunning collection of photographs have gone on display, showing the many varied aspects of the Jurassic Coast.

More than 1,200 entries were submitted to the 2013 Jurassic Coast Award from hopefuls in Dorset and Devon along with many from abroad, including Germany and Italy. The competition aimed to find new photographs of the coast in celebration of the internationally recognised Dorset and East Devon World Heritage Site.

The winning entries and a selection of outstanding runners up are now on show at the visitor centre, in Lulworth Cove, Dorset, until June 18. The contest was split into in three categories – My Special Place, Point in Time and Close up Coast. Overall winner was Paul Haynes, whose work Crepuscular and Cretaceous takes centre stage, after he "best summed up a new and different view of the coastline".

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