Have your say on the future of the Brighton & Hove City Downland Estate

, 22 June 2022
Have your say on the future of the Brighton & Hove City Downland Estate
Adonis Blue by Bob Eade

By Jess Price
Conservation Officer

Did you know that Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) owns most of the land surrounding the city? A huge 12,862 acre downland estate, stretching from Mile Oak and arching all the way around to Saltdean. The land was purchased by the Corporation of Brighton over 100 years ago in order to protect the public water supply (the chalk aquifer), provide public access, and control development. It is a fantastic public resource, which should be managed for public benefit.

Over the past few years, BHCC has been working to produce a City Downland Estate Plan (CDEP) that sets out the vision for the estate and the actions needed to achieve this. Many of you submitted content to the Council’s ‘bang the table’ forum and attended public events last year. The Sussex Wildlife Trust has also been involved every step of the way, advocating for a plan that acknowledges the biodiversity and climate crises and seeks to restore this degraded landscape for the benefit of people and wildlife.

A draft plan has now been published and everyone is invited to read it and let BHCC what they think by filling in this online survey before the deadline of Friday 8th July.

We’d like to encourage you to respond to this consultation and have your say. You don’t have to answer every question but every response helps to demonstrate to BHCC just how important this public land is to us all.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust will be submitting a detailed response but overall, we’re really pleased that BHCC is producing this plan. This is exactly what’s needed to direct work on this public asset to help holistically address the biggest issues of our time – the ecological, climate and health emergencies.

We’re focussing our response primarily on the vision and the actions in the action summary, as this is what will drive activity. Here are some of the key things we’ll be raising, which you are welcome to use in your own response if you agree:

  • Sussex Wildlife Trust strongly supports the production of the plan and BHCC’s vision to see the holistic management of the City Downland Estate for social and environmental benefit. There are really great commitments in there such as schools and outreach programmes and reducing surface water pollution.
  • We support the vision but would like to see reference to ‘regenerative’ farming, in recognition of the urgent need to improve biodiversity, soil health and carbon storage as part of agriculture.
  • We support a ring-fenced budget so that income raised on the estate goes back into improving the estate - but any business case must also consider the non-monetary value of actions on the estate, such as restoring chalk grassland, protecting the chalk aquifer and providing recreational opportunities.
  • We are concerned that some of the important detail in the Ecosystem Services section isn’t followed through into the actions. We need to make sure all the positive intentions actually result in change on the ground. For ‘The route to carbon net zero and beyond’, the action summary is missing.
  • Chalk grassland is an internationally rare habitat, so we’d like to see the actions strengthened to demonstrate an ambition for landscape-scale restoration of chalk grassland across the whole estate, rather than just improving what little is left.
  • We strongly support the last paragraph on page 79 and the organogram showing a City Downland Coordinator Role, sitting separately to the various departments with a stake in the downland estate. We believe this role will be most effective if it reports directly to an Executive Director and is able work across all departments.

You might also be interested in this blog from the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, another group which has been working to encourage positive action on the City Downland Estate.

You can read the draft plan and respond to the online survey here – deadline 8th July

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