By Jess Price
I have blogged a couple of times about the great potential for Brighton & Hove City Council to restore nature at Hollingbury and Waterhall Golf Courses. I’ve said that this is a chance for the council to think creatively and set a new direction for management of the Brighton Downland Estate. But is what the Sussex Wildlife Trust and many other local groups and people asking for so revolutionary? I don’t think so, especially when BHCC have done something similar before at Beacon Hill. Here’s co-founding Trustee and Secretary of the Beacon Hub Brighton, Atlanta Cook’s experience:
‘When the Rottingdean Miniature Golf Course lease became available in 2013 and the two commercial bids seemed to contradict the peaceful atmosphere and public access to the neighbouring Beacon Hill Local Nature Reserve, it was time for local residents to step in. Five co-founding Trustees of Beacon Hub Brighton CIO envisaged extending the nature reserve across the golf course and redeveloping the 1950s former golf club house and cafe kiosk into an Eco-education & Visitor Centre for the extended nature reserve.
I produced a three year Business Plan and Jay Butler created a detailed Proposal for Brighton & Hove City Council with the support of business mentor and fellow trustee Clive Bonny. A CIO was registered with the Charities Commission and the five Trustees were offered a rent free 15 year lease. We cleaned the place up, opened the cafe kiosk with volunteers and launched an eco-education programme alongside a fund-raising campaign to redevelop the building into a disabled access 35 capacity classroom, exhibition hall and community cafe kiosk. We now have an official partnership with South Downs National Park to create a unique coastal gateway into the UK’s newest national park.’
This is a fantastic example of what can be done when the council works in partnership with local residents and other organisations such as the South Downs National Park Authority. In fact the Sussex Wildlife Trust used the Beacon Hub in 2017 to inspire local children about the Living Coast. You can see a video about the day below. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had more locations like this around the city?
An initial decision on the Hollingbury and Waterhall Golf Course was due to be made at the Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee yesterday, but the item was removed from the agenda as more time was needed by council officers to consider options. We will wait to hear if it will appear at the next scheduled meeting in January and in the meantime continue to raise awareness of the potential of these sites amongst councillors.