Tag Archives: Open Spaces

Council’s downland sale cancelled

From The Argus

Brighton and Hove City Council’s downland sale cancelled

The controversial sale of two key downland sites has been dropped in the face of fierce public opposition.

Brighton and Hove City Council has agreed not to sell-off the sites at Poynings and Plumpton after campaigners accused the authority of selling off the crown jewels of their downland estate.

The land sales were designed to help fund the council’s contribution towards the £5.8 million restoration of Stanmer Park.

A special review panel established into the sales has now reported that Stanmer’s fundraising strategy is currently anticipated to over-achieve its target, allowing the plans to now continue without the need to sell the two sites.

The halted sell-off is the second good news for campaigners this month after Eastbourne decided against its plans to sell off downland farms for up to £30 million.

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokeswoman said: “After reviewing the situation, a cross party Policy Review Panel has taken the view that the sites at Poynings and Plumpton should not be sold at this time.

“The panel’s recommendation was made after councillors looked at the council’s approach to the downland asset management policy and heard evidence from expert witnesses.

“The sale of the sites was due to generate an estimated £360,000 and, if approved at committee, would result in a shortfall of the projected budget.

“The cross party working panel will meet for two further meetings to complete their review of the city’s Urban and Rural Asset Management Policy.

“The panel’s work includes hearing further evidence from local stakeholders and experts before reporting back with all their recommendations to May’s policy, resources and growth committee where the final decisions will be made.”

Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “I am pleased that the administration has now listened to residents and interested parties on this matter.

“The Conservative Group looked into this issue thoroughly, listening to and discussing the proposals with a number of bodies who wanted to see this downland remain under council ownership.

“We therefore welcome the decision of the panel.”

Green Councillor Ollie Sykes, who sat on the cross party policy review panel said: “Greens welcome the council’s announcement that finally ends the sale of two parts of our Downland estate and have worked hard for this decision.

“Observers might wonder what the fuss was about and why people are concerned about selling agricultural land outside our city boundaries, when capital receipts are required for various projects around the city.

“One part of the answer to this question lies in the fate of land on the Devil’s Dyke estate sold recently by our council, on which ancient woodland trees have been felled in the past few weeks.

“A number of commentators, including the CEO of South Downs National Park Authority, have stated that public ownership is the best protection for precious rural landholdings.

“At the root of public ownership lies democratic oversight. Sale, lease, change of use of land in public ownership is subject to scrutiny by members of the public and by elected representatives.

“Land in private ownership is not, even if it is protected by national designations for biodiversity, heritage, landscape, water provision and public rights of way.

“My big fear through this process was that if these parcels of land were sold, the enforcement of designations protecting their status and social value would pass to a suite of chronically under-resourced public sector bodies whose environmental protection mandate continues to be diluted by national government.

“Also some of the existing protections are only in place because of European legislation, which may soon become irrelevant.

“The South Downs is an iconic landscape and habitat of huge importance to our city and nationally. Its great news that we’re not going to sell it off bit by bit.”

Keith Taylor, Green MEP, former city councillor and vice-chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “This welcome climbdown is great news for Green campaigners and everybody involved in the Keep our Downlands Public campaign in Brighton and Hove.

“The controversial plan to sell off the council’s Poynings and Plumpton landholdings in the South Downs inspired an organised, passionate and energetic campaign to stop the sales; their efforts must be commended.

Putting open spaces on the right track

Brighton & Hove has published a new open spaces strategy that will shape the future of parks and open spaces in the city.

The results of the ‘Big Conversation’ consultation on open spaces last autumn, which attracted more than 3,500 responses, have guided the draft strategy.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of the environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “Councils up and down the country are facing the challenge of how to fund parks and opens spaces with reducing budgets. We will learn from the successes of other local authorities and build on the excellent work already being done in Brighton & Hove, in particular by volunteers.

“As the city grows the preservation of open space becomes even more important, providing areas for play, relaxation and exercise. Parks are among the most used public assets and highly valued by residents. We have taken their views into account in drawing up this strategy and will continue to involve them.”

Last autumn’s Big Conversation asked residents what their spending priorities were for parks and open spaces and their thoughts on how to manage with less, including creating new revenue such as cafes, sponsors, events and charges. Funding for councils from central government is falling, with parks traditionally one of local authorities’ smallest budgets. Between 2009 and 2020 Brighton & Hove’s parks could lose around one third of its money.

The strategy asks the council to look at a range of policies and actions to put parks on a firm footing in order to maintain facilities for the future. It highlights funding opportunities and the need to build on ideas that came out of the consultation.

These include:

  • Exploring the establishment of a Parks Foundation to lead on fundraising
  • Creating more income for parks, working in partnership  with businesses and potential sponsors, and other organisations such as the Football Association and lottery funders
  • Developing other partnerships to care for open spaces, such as with colleges and universities, the Wildlife Trust, Ramblers, Biosphere partners and the South Downs National Park Authority.

Over the next 10 years the strategy also calls on the council to:

  • Develop a tree strategy (In the Big Conversation, respondents identified trees  as the most important asset in parks and gardens for future funding)
  • Enable members of the public to cut their own grass verges (87% of respondents said the council should support residents cutting grass verges with their own tools)
  • Build on the success of volunteers by creating more opportunities and making sure they get the support they need (Most of the city’s 38 Friends of Parks volunteer groups told the council they need more support to continue their work and more than half of respondents to the Big Conversation (58%) expressed an interest in helping out in parks)
  • Introduce more natural play features (74.2% of respondents tended to agree, or strongly agreed, to replacing some play equipment from children’s playgrounds with natural play features)

Playgrounds remain one of the biggest challenges for the city’s parks service. Because of the success of securing £2m of funds for playgrounds in 2009, a large amount of the city’s playground equipment will need replacing over the next five to 10 years, at a cost of another £2m. There has been some success so far, with playground equipment provided recently in Manor Road, Saltdean Oval and Hove Lagoon through public donations and planning contributions.

Work to put the strategy’s proposals into practice would start in 2017 if agreed by the committee. Councillors will also take into account the funding challenges and suggestions for parks as they set the council’s budget in February.

Read the draft open spaces strategy.

Keep up to date with the future of our parks and open spaces.

Parks face threat of decline with severe consequences

From Fields In Trust

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Last week was an important one for those of us interested in the UK’s parks and green spaces.

On Saturday the long-awaited report from the Parliamentary Communities and Local Government Committee’s Public parks inquiry was published, setting out a series of recommendations for government and calling for clear leadership of the sector.

Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, BBC Breakfast TV and Sky News to respond to the report and champion our parks and playing fields. The report came just days after the publication of the Housing White Paper which could open the door to increased housing development on recreational land. We will be monitoring these policy developments over the forthcoming months and publishing our own research findings.

The CLG Committee’s report recommends recognising the wider value of parks to contribute to the health and wellbeing of communities; our new research report focussed on Centenary Park, Rugby illustrates, in microcosm, the value that access to green space provides for communities across the UK.

Read our response to the Public parks inquiry report.

Also this month, our ezine highlights some funding opportunities that may be available for green space community projects and shares information about the Great British Spring Clean, a campaign we are supporting.

Remember, between ezine updates you can keep in touch with Fields in Trust via social media: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Slow worms could halt railway allotments development

From Brighton & Hove News

A developer’s plans to squeeze a terrace of four homes onto old railway allotments in Brighton is being stalled by the question of whether or not there are slow worms living there.

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People living near the patch of land, which backs onto the Open House pub’s garden on Springfield Road, say they were horrified when the new owner of the site, Brighton Housing Developments, cleared it before Christmas.

Planning permission was given on appeal in 2014 to build four houses on the site – subject to the snakelike reptiles being moved to a new home.

But this runs out in March, and John Blackburn-Panteli, director of Brighton Housing Developments which bought the plot in December last year, has now submitted a survey which states that no slow worms live on the site, so no relocation is needed.

However, county ecologist Kate Cole says the survey was done during periods of frosty nights, which could have triggered the slow worms’ hibernation period and account for none being found.

A petition to save the allotments from development has now been signed by more than 400 people. Clare Tyler, who started it, said: “The old railway allotments between Springfield Road and London Road station, home to a wealth of wildlife and a much-loved conservation area in the heart of the city, have been destroyed.

“Much to our dismay, a developer recently bought the land with planning permission, and hastily chopped down all the woodland just before Christmas without any prior notice to the local residents or the community and plans to build four houses, immediately beside the rail track and Open House pub.

“The community are fighting this, and we will continue to fight. The piece of land was an oasis of woodland, shrubbery and wildlife.

“Now it’s a barren site – we hope it can be saved, and at the very least, we want the developers to strictly adhere to all conditions going forward- and the slow worms saved!”

Click here for the full story.

Railway Allotment Clearance & Petition to save Slow Worms

At the January Drara meeting residents expressed concern at the clearance of former Old Railway allotments – the stretch of land sandwiched between the Open House pub and London Road Station.…

Source: Old Railway Allotment Clearance & Petition to save London Road Station Slow worms

Downland sales halted again

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth

City Councillors have rejected a recommendation to resume the sale of Plumpton Hill and Poynings Field. The sales had been suspended in December, as a result of widespread outrage at the prospect of flogging off these vital parts of the City’s historic 12,500 acre Downland Estate.

At a meeting on 19 January Conservative and Green councillors passed a motion requiring the sale of the two vulnerable sites to be referred to a new Policy Review Panel. The sales were intended to part-fund the controversial Stanmer Park Project and to contribute to the alleviation of the Council’s debt.

All the Downland that has been sold or is threatened with sale is within the South Downs National Park.

Keep Our Downs Public is a coalition of local people which was formed in 1994-5 to successfully fight the proposed privatisation of the whole Downland Estate by the then ruling Labour Party. A new Keep…

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