EAST Hampshire MP Damian Hinds has praised a new authority for pumping hundreds of thousands of pounds into community projects in the South Downs.
Since the national park came into existence on April 1 last year, a total of £400,000 has been spent on 57 schemes.
In most cases national park support meant they could attract further funding – bringing the estimated value of the projects to nearly £3m.
Projects include a new eco-friendly visitor centre at Butser Ancient Farm, a replica of an Iron Age farm at Chalton.
The centre features several energy-saving features, including storing and filtering rainwater.
Another project to benefit is the Shipwrights Way, which will eventually be a 60-mile countryside path from Alice Holt Forest, north of Petersfield, to Portsmouth.
Mr Hinds said: ‘I am impressed with the dedication and hard work that these people have given to improve the life of their communities.
‘Their success shows what can be achieved when people from across the South Downs and the national park join forces.’
An organisation to benefit from funding is a centre for people with learning and physical disabilities developed by the FitzRoy Rural Skills Project based at East Meon, near Petersfield
Gabe Fulford, of FitzRoy, said: ‘The funding has enabled us to develop two woodworking areas.
‘The grant helped to buy tools, materials and timber flooring for the woodcrafts area. The people we support at the project, who have a range of learning and physical disabilities, are really enjoying this new facility. The buzz of seeing the smiles on their faces, and the way their self-esteem has grown, is incredible.’
Margaret Paren, chairwoman of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: ‘We want the national park to improve the lives of people who live and work here. That’s what the Sustainable Community Fund is all about and why I’m so proud to celebrate these people’s achievements.’