Beloved South Downs landscape saved from road plan

The landscape of the South Downs, near Seven Sisters cliffs The cover of Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling, featuring the Seven Sisters cliffs A treasured view of one of the finest landscapes in Britain has been saved following a campaign by conservationists and residents.Campaigners claimed the much loved vista close to the Seven Sisters cliffs, featured in paintings, films and countless photographs, could have been permanently ruined by the building of a road.Plans had been submitted to run the access track through fields in the heart of the South Downs National Park, in Sussex, to allow easier access to a private house.Opponents said it would have despoiled a centuries old landscape and ruin its unique, untouched character.But the owner of the house condemned them as hypocrites, saying that hers was the last house in the area not to have a proper and safe access road. The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) threw out the plan in the face of vocal opposition, despite a recommendation by its own officials to go ahead with building work.Ironically, one of the previous owners of the house was Frank Newbould, the painter of the World War Two poster ‘It’s Your Britain – Fight for it now’, which celebrated the unspoilt glory of the South Downs.The landscape around the Seven Sisters cliffs has also been featured in the films Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Atonement and Pirates of the Caribbean and depicted on the cover of Bill Bryson’s affectionate book about England, The Road to Little Dribbling. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. The landscape of the South Downs, near Seven Sisters cliffsCredit:Jack Taylor/Getty Images Europe The cover of Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling, featuring the Seven Sisters cliffs The plan submitted by local resident Mary Jane Higgins to build the hard-surfaced 2.5m wide road was opposed by the local parish council, the South Downs Society, the National Trust and dozens of nearby residents who said it ran counter to the SDNPA’s own obligation is to “conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area”. Ms Higgins has been left angry with the SDNPA’s decision not to allow the road to be built to her home.She said: “I was shocked and very disappointed that the planning application for a simple chalk track was turned down when all the houses in my neighbourhood, also part of the Downland Trust, have tarmac access and cattle grids.“There are real health and safety issues, especially in times of rain and fog when access without four wheel drive is hazardous not only to the live stock in the field but the ramblers too. Most emergency vehicles for instance, ambulances and fire engines are two wheel drive.”The South Downs National Park Authority said: “The application was refused by the Authority’s Planning Committee on the grounds of adverse impact on the special qualities of this area of the National Park.”View latest offers from National Trust The National Trust officials said the proposed road was too wide for “a modest residential building in a very rural landscape”.Local resident Mark Wigglesworth, a conductor and former music director of the English National Opera, said: “People come from all over the world to enjoy the Seven Sisters – and what they love about it is the freedom of its landscape, a tranquility that is currently untouched by development and traffic.“Previous inhabitants of this property, including Frank Newbould, have never had any problem with access. All have understood that the distinctive, natural, unscarred quality of this landscape was what made where they lived so special.Mr Wigglesworth, who has lived in Crowlink, on the South Downs, for 25 years, added: “There are currently no tracks across the open fields that stretch down to the Seven Sisters cliffs and many of us were concerned that this unique characteristic was about to be ruined forever. We are so relieved that the objections of so many were taken seriously by the committee members themselves.”

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