A National Park business environment?

A conference to discuss the potential impact of a South Downs National Park on the economic health of the area is to be held in January 2005.

Sponsored by the three local authorities in the western part of the South Downs - Chichester, East Hampshire and Winchester - the conference is aimed at business leaders and partner economic development organisations.

The conference is being held on Thursday 27 January 2005 at 4.00 pm at Botley Park Hotel, Botley, Hamphire, to ensure that the business community -

• is fully aware of the opportunities and risks, and
• begins to work together to ensure positive outcomes for the local economy should the National Park proposal be implemented from 2008.

Caroline Williams, Chair of the Hampshire Economic Partnership, has agreed to lead the conference and Stephen Olivant - Planning Advisor to the National Park Local Authorities Member Officer Group ( NPLAMOG) - will provide a detailed briefing on the issue.

Henry Aubrey Fletcher, Vice President of the Country Landowners and Business Association, will be providing his own unique perspective on the challenge of doing business in a National Park.

Cllr Sheila Campbell, Leader of Winchester City Council, said "The possibility of establishing a National Park in Hampshire brings huge opportunities for the rural economy. Tourism, recreation and farm diversity can all benefit given careful planning."

Cllr Richard Knasel, the Cabinet Portfolio holder for Economy and Transport, added "We must ensure that we make the most out of the proposed SDNP for our rural economy, whilst preserving a vibrant area from over-development and environmental damage."

The Public Local Inquiry about the National Park proposal is planned to finish this December but no definitive decisions are expected until late 2005 at the earliest.

Further details can be obtained from the South Downs for Business Conference Office, tel: 01730 234165. Fax: 01730 234169. Email: southdownsforbusiness@easthants.gov.uk