Tag Archives: South Downs National Park

Rights of Way

From Brighton & Hove Way

The Brighton & Hove Way is just one aspect of our important network of rights of way giving access the to the city’s countryside, parks and open spaces; green lungs enjoyed by hundreds of people each day.

Have your say on the new draft Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2017 – 27 now open for consultation. Your support for the Brighton & Hove Way and for investing in our entire network of paths is needed and appreciated – https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/…/parks-and-gre…/rights-way

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.

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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Plans for selling parts of Downs put on hold

From The Argus

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Campaigners are celebrating after plans to sell publicly owned downland were put on hold.

Brighton and Hove City Council’s policy, resources and growth committee voted last night to stall any sales of the remaining sites which had been earmarked.

A joint amendment from Conservative and Green councillors admitted the plans should have received greater scrutiny and changes to council policies were required to prevent such sensitive sales going under the radar in the future.

It followed an intervention by the Keep Our Downs Public campaigners who have been fighting the proposals. Pressure has been mounting on Brighton and Hove and Eastbourne councils to back down over controversial plans to sell publicly owned downland.

South Down chief executive Trevor Beattie this week became the latest environmentalist to call on the councils to rethink their plans while campaigners have again made their voices loud and clear at a public meeting.

Brighton and Hove City Council is in the process of selling more than a dozen buildings and downland farm sites to help fund its project to restore Stanmer Park to its 18th century roots.

The sale of sites at Plumpton Hill and Poynings have been put on hold until January while alternatives to fund the Stanmer Park project are drawn up.

Eastbourne Borough Council is looking to sell more than 3,000 acres of its downland holdings to farmers to finance its development of Devonshire Park.

But moves have come under increasing pressure from environmentalists.

Mr Beattie’s intervention may be the most significant intervention yet as both councils have defended the sell-offs by claiming the land will still be protected by the national park.

He said: “They are not just local assets, they are national legacies. “In every case we have made our concerns clear and called for a rethink about these countryside sales. We urge councils to consider their responsibilities and, if they believe that there really is no alternative, put in place covenants or conditions to protect the land from damaging uses which might not be caught by the planning system.”

At the committee meeting Keep Our Downs Public campaigner Dave Bangs told members there had been “a major failure of vigilance” in allowing the majority of sales to go through already. He called for a permanent stop on all downland sales, redefining of downland as core assets and to begin a public discussion as to the future of the authority’s 12,500 downland estate.

Meanwhile Chris Todd of Friends of the Earth has said it was not enough for Eastbourne Borough Council to give assurances the land would remain as farmland. He said: “When the council received the downland it was on the understanding that it would remain open chalk downland. It was not ploughed up until after the Second World War. What the council really wants to be doing is considering how they can restore some of that open access. People love their downlands which politics seem to forget at their peril.”

Stanmer Park restoration edges closer

From The Argus

stanmer-park

The restoration of a historic park has moved a step closer despite environmentalists’ concerns it will become choked with cars.

The £5.8 million plans to return Stanmer Park to its 18th century roots have moved a step closer after gaining the unanimous support of the South Downs National Park Authority.

The plans were criticised by environmental groups for proposals to increase car parking spaces by 50 per cent with a new car park of more than 250 spaces at the park’s heart.

The park already attracts 300,000 visitors by car annually but that could rise by 40 per cent by 2020.

The next hurdle for the project will come next week when the Heritage Lottery Fund board decide on the project’s funding.

The plans include the restoration of the historic Lower Lodges entrance and doubling its car park, a new kiosk with cycle hire and café, a Green Drive for pedestrians and cyclists and the restoration of the listed Frankland monument.

The park’s Walled Garden will be turned into a working garden with cafe, garden centre and education facilities while the Citypark depot will make way for the new car park and meadows.

Scores of objectors wrote to the authority raising concerns about the loss of trees and increased car parking.

Planning committee members welcomed the project but echoed concerns about car parking in the historical park.

But members also said that it was important the park had sufficient capacity for the growing number of visitors it would need to become sustainable.

Brighton and Hove City Council parks development manager Rob Dumbrell said the restoration project was designed to take Stanmer off Historic England’s at risk register and bring its heritage to wider public attention.

Steve Ankers, speaking on behalf of the South Downs Society and the Campaign to Protect Rural England in opposing the plans, said more car park spaces would encourage more motorists when the council should be focussing on sustainable transport options.

He said that commercial growth from a new café and garden centre would come at the expense of the enjoyment of the park.

Speaking after the meeting, Chris Todd from Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, said: “When we supported a national park it was to stop this sort of highly damaging development.

“The superstore sized central car park will generate a large amount of traffic in the park which will undermine its special qualities and could set a dangerous precedent elsewhere in the South Downs.”

Councillor Gill Mitchell, Brighton and Hove City Council’s environment committee chairwoman, said: “We are really pleased that the SDNPA supports our designs that have been influenced by public consultation to restore Stanmer Park to its former Victorian glory.

“Today’s decision is a major step forward in being able to bring the vision of the council and its partners to reality.”

Concerns over Council’s sale of downland

From The Argus

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Land near Plumpton Hill put up for sale by Brighton and Hove City Council for £150,000.

More than 100 acres of downland held in public ownership for decades is being flogged off in the biggest sale of its kind for 20 years.

Campaigners are calling for a freeze on the 120 acre downland sell-off by Brighton and Hove City Council warning of damaging repercussions for the South Downs with a loss of public access and reduced conservation at important wildlife sites.

The sales are being arranged by the cash-strapped council, which has to find £18 million of cuts in the next financial year and £145 million by 2020.

The sale includes two sites of special scientific interest, part of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a 50-year old nature reserve and two vital parts of the Devil’s Dyke setting according to opponents of the sale.

Council bosses said the land represented just one per cent of its 12,000 acre Downland estate, the equivalent of around 7,000 football pitches, with the sale of “less valuable heritage assets” in a bid to help fund the £5.8 million Stanmer Park restaurant project.

Campaigners are concerned that the sales could be just the beginning of a wider sell-off but council officials insisted no more are planned at present.

Land sales causing campaigners concern include three acres of The Junipers at the old Sussex Wildlife Trust Saddlescombe Nature Reserve sold to a private buyer for the “paltry sum of £35,000”.

Environmentalists say it is the sole remaining site for juniper in East Sussex, a well-known site for rare orchid species and bats, and “the single most important plot” in the whole Downland estate.

Devil’s Dyke Field has been sold to its tenant while the ten-acre Park Wall Farm at Falmer was snapped up for £175,000 though the council said it would be protected as grazing land.

Campaigners are also unhappy about the proposed sale of the 22-acre site The Racecourse outside Poynings, “a wonderful fossil site” that is the match of the better-known Bridport Cliffs in Dorset, and the loss from public ownership of Plumpton Hill Scarp though the council has said this will continue to be farmed by Plumpton College with public access fixed in perpetuity.

Environmental campaigner Dave Bangs said all the land should be kept in public ownership in perpetuity.

He added: “These sales open the door to privatisation of Brighton’s entire Downland Estate.

“Without democratic public accountability we must expect threats to public usage, neglect, damage to important wildlife habitat, inappropriate development, and more shooting and hunting.”

Chris Todd, of Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, said: “We have real concerns about this, most of the public is largely unaware of what is being done.

“I think people thought it was just a few minor old buildings or pieces of land of small value whereas they are proposing to sell hugely important wildlife sites.”

A city council spokeswoman said: “The sites chosen are non-core assets owned by the council, some of which are outside the city’s boundaries.

“Most of the Downland Estate is within the South Downs National Park and protected by the highest level of statutory protection possible.

“When the council sells land we take advice from specialist agents to make sure appropriate control mechanisms are put in place to protect the council and the city’s residents against future development or possible changes in use.”

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Planning application for £16 million hotel at Amex stadium

From Brighton & Hove News

Brighton and Hove Albion have submitted a planning application to build a £16 million 150-bed hotel and specialist cancer treatment centre next to the American Express Community Stadium.

The plans have gone into Brighton and Hove City Council and Lewes District Council because the site straddles both local authority areas.

The hotel would be known as the Brighton Aloft.

Albion said: “Both the hotel and cancer treatment centre are subject to a business case and board approval – by Albion and the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust respectively.

American Express Community Stadium“Upon completion, it is expected that the hotel complex would provide an additional £5.8 million in revenue each year to the local economy and 82 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs – filled by local people.

“The hotel, which would be operated in partnership with an experienced hotel operator, will help Albion develop a stronger residential conference offering to help serve and increase the non-matchday business at the stadium.

“It will also provide visitor accommodation for football supporters coming to matches and visitors to the two universities, serve those seeking access to the South Downs National Park and enable business travellers using the A27 to stay overnight without needing to drive into Brighton and Hove city centre.

“The hotel site straddles both Brighton and Hove City Council and Lewes District Council boundaries and will be considered by both local planning authorities in early 2016 and, if approved, will open to guests in the summer 2017.

“The development is being overseen by longstanding Albion director Martin Perry, who has been responsible for the successful delivery of the stadium and training ground developments.”

Mr Perry said: “This is another exciting development by Brighton and Hove Albion and will help us attract additional business to the stadium and local economy – and provide another community facility with invaluable health, social and economic benefits.

“We are now working on the tender documents for the project and the hotel is subject to board approval, once tenders have been received and the full costs of the development have been established.”

The investment in the project will add to the £152 million already invested by the club in the American Express Community Stadium and Elite Football Performance Centre.

“To date, the stadium alone has contributed on average £38 million per annum to the local economy while a recent report by financial experts KPMG projected that the two hugely successful Rugby World Cup matches held in Brighton last weekend would contribute £46 million to the local economy alone.

“In addition, it has already created over 1,000 FTE jobs (including 400 construction jobs) and it is estimated to have also indirectly created approximately 600 jobs in other businesses.”