By Jess Price
Did you know that Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) owns most of the land that surrounds the city? A huge downland estate of over 5000 hectares, stretching from Mile Oak and arching all the way around to Saltdean. BHCC are currently consulting on a vision for this estate, asking us all what we want for this amazing public asset. They are going to take everyone’s ideas and try to create a new City Downland Estate Plan which sets out how the council will manage the land into the future.
This is a great opportunity for us to put forward ideas. The City Downland Estate is a fantastic public resource and as such it should be managed for public benefit. The Sussex Wildlife Trust wants this plan to holistically address the biggest issues of our time – the ecological, climate and health emergencies – so we think BHCC should prioritise enhancing ecosystem services including species diversity, water quality and quantity, pollination, food production, accessibility and carbon sequestration by:
- Fully restoring the terribly damaged and degraded chalk grassland and other species-rich habitats that should be a jewel in the crown of the estate
- Adapting farming practices to promote a more restorative, chemical-free approach that protects our chalk aquifer drinking water and combats climate change
- Increasing quality public access and accessibility across the estate
- Increasing opportunities for community engagement and use of this big resource
These are Sussex Wildlife Trust’s priorities, but this consultation is for anyone and everyone. You don’t have to know the estate well to contribute. Perhaps you live in the city but have never walked out onto the downland estate? Or only know your regular dog walking patch? That’s absolutely fine. The council wants to hear from everyone, whether you’ve walked over every inch of the estate or never visited before.
The first set of consultation events start next week, providing a great opportunity for you to get involved. There are online discussion groups happening on 17, 21 and 24 November. You can find out much more about the estate, the process and sign up to attend one of these sessions via the BHCC City Downland Estate Plan webpage.
The session on 17 November is already fully booked but the Council will put on more sessions if the existing dates all fill up, so please don’t let that put you off. We’ve also been told that there will be an online consultation portal going live, which anyone can contribute ideas to.
This really is a vital opportunity to influence the Council’s plans for protecting and enhancing the City Downland Estate. It is a precious resource that should be protected and enhanced for long-term public benefit.
Please make your voices heard.