VOTE: Would you like to see more visitors in the National Park?

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ONLY four per cent of visitors stay in the South Downs National Park overnight, figures from the authority’s first visitors survey reveal.

Of the 46.3m day visits recorded, only 1.9m visits were from those staying overnight – compared to 6.8m staying outside the park.

Visitors to the South Downs National Park spend an estimated £464.4m every year, and support more than 8,200 jobs.

However, a spokesperson from the South Downs National Park Authority said there is ‘potential for increasing the visitor spend within the area’ by ‘encouraging more people to stay within the park, rather than travelling in from outside’.

With work now well underway for the new South Downs National Park headquarters at Capron House in Midhust, there are high hopes the revamped building will attract more tourists to the town. The new base will not only house some 60 officers, but also offer a community meeting place with a visitor and education centre,

Two years on from Midhurst winning the contest to become the new headquarters, the report shows a ‘large number’ of local business believe they benefit from the national park and residents ‘feel positive’ about tourism in the area.

Giles Thompson runs the Partridge Inn in Singleton and the Earl of March in Lavant. “Much of our business comes from people who have come to walk in the National Park,” he said.

“I see the park as a real opportunity to build my own business and show my support to those around us.”

According to the survey, more than 90 per cent of visitors said the park ‘improved their health and sense of well-being’, with most visiting the area to enjoy the ‘fresh air and great views’.

Margaret Paren, chairman of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “This is vital evidence of the role that tourism plays in boosting the regional economy and how much local people value their time in the South Downs National Park.

“It is very important we balance raising the profile of the South Downs to support the local economy with encouraging people to visit sustainably and reduce their impact on the landscape.”

More than 6m people living in the South Downs visit the National Park each year, with a further 31.1m visits being made by people living nearby.

However, findings from the report suggest residents have ‘concerns’ about the impact of visitors, including eroding footpaths, dog fouling, litter and disturbing livestock, and feel ‘more could be done’ to encourage visitors to behave responsibly.

The South Downs National Park receives the third largest visitor spend of all UK National Parks, after the Lake District and the Pembrokeshire coast.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Would you like to see more visitors in the National Park? Have your say in the voting panel to the right, and leave your comments below.