The South Downs was today given national park status, after six decades of campaigning and seven years of wrangling over its boundaries.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn came to Ditchling to sign the order creating the 632 sq mile park, which runs from Beachy Head to Winchester, including Brighton’s Green Ridge.
He said: “The unique chalk downlands and heavy weald clay landscapes which make up this wonderful countryside will now be protected for everyone to enjoy.”
“National Park status will attract new visitors to the South Downs and bring investment into the local area.”
John Songhurst, chairman of the South Downs Society, said: “The National Park means more can be done to protect our precious wildlife and enable it to thrive.
“The South Downs has been waiting for over 60 years for this protection, so there is a great deal to be done and the authority has its work cut out.
“We will be presenting the authority with suggestions for its priorities over the first months and years and offering the skills and assistance of our members with the tasks ahead.”
Green Ridge, a stretch of meadowland between Westdene and the A27, was almost left out of the park’s boundaries, but reinstated after public protest.
The area was given national park status in March, which means the area it covers is granted additional protection from development.
The original boundaries were drawn up in 2002, but disputes from Sussex councils led to lengthy consultation followed by a 19-month public enquiry.
The councils’ main objection was that they would lose planning powers – but supporters say councils will continue to make planning decisions while ultimate control will rest with the national park authority.