THE organisation that looks after the country’s newest national park has defended a decision to spend £35,000 on encouraging users to be more polite.
The South Downs National Park covers 380 square miles of countryside stretching from Winchester across to Eastbourne in Sussex and is the most popular in the UK.
It employed an agency to create a spoof video of a walker and his dog intended to persuade people to behave respectfully in the park, while simultaneously encouraging more people to visit.
And over Easter, people were paid to stand on pathways with signs saying ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’.
The South Downs National Park Authority, which runs the park and is government-funded, has come under fire from Alex Wild at TaxPayers’ Alliance who called it a ‘staggering waste of money’.
He said: ‘While the amount might not seem like a lot to a public sector bureaucrat, they have to remember that someone had to go out and work for it.
This is an utterly pointless and patronising campaign to solve a problem that doesn’t exist – the plug should be pulled on it before any more taxpayers’ money is wastedAlex Wild
‘This is an utterly pointless and patronising “campaign” to solve a problem that doesn’t exist – the plug should be pulled on it before any more taxpayers’ money is wasted.’
But a spokesperson for the SDNPA said the campaign is about encouraging people use the park and, once there, keeping dogs under control and making sure gates are closed.
They added: ‘This is a light-hearted campaign to spread the word that the SDNP is here for everyone, encouraging people to explore the landscapes and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits they bring.
‘With 46m visits a year, celebrating friendly and responsible behaviour as normal is far more effective than telling people what they should or shouldn’t do.
‘We’ve had a great response to this campaign which is just one small part of what we do to help people to enjoy and appreciate their time in the country’s most-visited national park.’