Farmer Focus: Park needs farmer voice says Edward Tupper

Edward Tupper farms 700ha (1730 acres) on the South Downs near Petworth, West Sussex, and manages a further 112ha (277 acres) on contract. Crops include wheat, oilseed rape, barley, maize and grass for a 175-cow dairy

It is now official – I am no longer a farmer, but a park keeper. With the announcement from Hilary Benn that the South Downs will become a national park, I do fear that change is on its way. But in what way?

There has been a lengthy consultation since it was first announced at a Labour Party conference that the South Downs would become a national park. Its boundary was a great discussion point – with small villages on its outskirts highlighting the need for their inclusion and exclusion.

I am sure there will be benefits for the downs and surrounding areas, but feel that the working farming community will not have a strong enough voice on the NP board. It’s vital that there is good farmer representation – the South Downs is a very intensively farmed area.

As the board will no doubt be a non-electable group, it’s vital that the NFU really campaigns for proper working farmer representatives to be included; people who will stand up against the extra red tape and regulations that will no doubt be coming our way.

When I stood on top of the downs looking west to the Isle of Wight and east towards Worthing on a warm spring evening over Easter, I wondered why there was any need for change.

Will there be more signs littering the countryside telling everyone where to park and walkways constructed so that people don’t get their best new white trainers dirty?

One thing is for certain, national park or not, the South Downs is my place of work and I have been given this great opportunity to carry on the good work that my forefathers started generations ago. I fully intend continuing to do so.