South Downs National Park

Tristram Hunt's argument for designating the South Downs a national park is as stupid as it is divisive.

So without a park the "right of access ... is being lost to a generation". What tosh. Has he heard of the South Downs Way? He says the threat comes from "retail parks". Where? The most damage to the Downs in recent years came from John Prescott's approval of a 22,000-seat football stadium - shortly after he had announced the park to the Labour party conference. I think that powers should be returned to councils, and that communities should be respected. Hunt thinks that councils are for overriding.

Park status gives the South Downs no greater protection than they have as an area of outstanding natural beauty. Labour's plans to build more than 660,000 houses and ecotowns are by far the biggest threat to the countryside of the south-east - handing the already-protected South Downs to a quango will do nothing to prevent this.

Nick Herbert MP

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Letter to the Guardian - 7 April

It is a pity that Nick Herbert MP (Letters, 6 April), shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, and from a Sussex constituency, has not mastered his brief on the South Downs national park. The 22,000-seater community stadium is being built on land that is outside the proposed boundary of the national park. It is in fact on a piece of land bounded on three sides by roads, with a university campus on the fourth side. It is not on the Downs.

Cllr Les Hamilton
Lab, Brighton & Hove City Council

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Letter to the Guardian - 8 April 

Unluckily for Cllr Les Hamilton, I have indeed mastered my brief (Letters, 7 April). So when he claims that a 22,000-seater football stadium isn't being built in the South Downs, I know that it is in fact in the Sussex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty, that the complex was originally within the proposed national park boundary, that the development was opposed by Natural England - the government's statutory adviser on landscape protection - and that the Campaign to Protect Rural England reacted with dismay when ministers allowed the stadium to go ahead, calling the decision "disgraceful". Labour say they want to "protect for ever" the Downs - except where they'd rather develop them. If I were you, Cllr Hamilton, I'd stop digging.

Nick Herbert MP

Michelle Taylor