Planning officials from Oman visit Buriton

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Omani visitors

Part of a fact-finding trip to study national park ideas

A group of senior Government officials swopped the sweltering 41 degree heat of Muscat for a more bearable 14 degrees in Buriton early in June.

The visitors, including the country’s Director-General of Spatial Strategy in the Ministry of Housing & Urban Planning, spent a full day with representatives of Buriton Parish Council and others in the community.

The Omani Government is considering establishing its first ever National Parks and the visit to Britain was centred around ten days in the South Downs: England’s newest national park. The trip, facilitated by the SDNPA, was funded by the Anglo-Omani Society as part of a wider programme of learning and assistance.

The delegation was particularly interested in considering the concepts of planning and national parks, including potential tensions between tourism, conservation, agricultural production, development and community life.

Buriton was chosen so that the visitors could get a good flavour from a community perspective and because of its range of experience and good practices.

As well as using the village hall, refreshments were provided by both the village pubs: the Five Bells supplied lunch and the Nest provided early evening meals for the VIP group.

The visitors were particularly interested in Buriton’s Village Design Statement, traffic calming measures and Dark Night Skies work. But they also noted recent initiatives to help nature and to address climate change as well as work assisting Dominase in rural Ghana.

Discussions during the day revealed that many of the challenges in Oman appear similar to those faced here and the visitors are currently looking to strengthen the capacity of Omani institutions to guide sustainable development of rural areas, including parts of their country with high environmental and cultural significance.

During the day the visitors were taken to other significant parts of the parish including the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, the large Butser Quarry site and to the top of Butser Hill to appreciate views of the wider landscape.

Whilst noting how the community has interacted successfully with the National Park Authority, the visitors were also advised to learn from mistakes made in this country.

Important learning points taken away by the Omani officials included the importance of funding National Parks properly if they are to be capable of protecting the environment, to take their time when making important decisions and to involve local communities properly at all times.