by Jess Price
Last month I wrote about the amazing opportunity Brighton & Hove City Council currently have to restore rare chalk grassland on Waterhall and Hollingbury Golf Courses. As part of the Brighton Downs Alliance, the Sussex Wildlife Trust is continuing to campaign for these sites to be restored and freely accessible to the public.
The Brighton Downland Estate was purchased by Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) over many years to control development, protect drinking water and biodiversity and to provide for public access. However, over the years the purpose of this public land seems to have been forgotten – land is periodically sold off to private developers, farmed intensively with loss of wildlife, damage to cultural heritage and pollution of the aquifer, and signs erected stating “private land, no public access”.
The expiry of the lease for Waterhall and Hollingbury Golf Courses provides a golden opportunity to begin to restore our Brighton Downs, moving away from the chemicals and heavy water demands of the current management and towards concrete action to reverse biodiversity declines.
The Brighton Downs Alliance wants to see full downland ecosystem restoration, community-led food growing and open, free public connection with our local heritage. This is completely possible. We only need to look at successful examples such as the Beacon Hub and Plaw Hatch community farm.
Currently it appears that the BHCC's Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee will be discussing the bids put forward so far at their next meeting on 21 November.
We want BHCC to slow down. Talk to residents, talk to the South Downs National Park Authority and other stakeholders in the Brighton Downs Alliance about the potential for these sites. Work with the Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere Partnership to create a long-term, sustainable plan which brings in revenue and increases biodiversity and other public benefits.
The Sussex Wildlife Trust strongly believes that the decision BHCC makes over the future of these two sites will clearly demonstrate whether the Council was serious when it declared global climate and biodiversity emergencies. Will it just be business as usual, or will they think creatively and set a new direction for management of the Brighton Downland Estate, which truly delivers on the City’s environmental responsibilities?
Brighton & Hove Residents
If you live in Brighton and Hove, please contact your councillors as soon as possible to let them know that you support the restoration of Waterhall and Hollingbury Golf Courses. Ask for BHCC-led, holistic management that conserves and enhances biodiversity and public recreation and meets the priorities of the Biosphere. The new lease will be for a minimum of 25 years, so this really is a once in a generation chance to restore a significant part of the Brighton Downland Estate. We want BHCC to:
- Respect the fact that this is public land
- Properly address the problems caused by intensive land use e.g. The Brighton Downs is the most polluted drinking water across the entire South Downs
- Tackle damaging climate change and biodiversity decline by restoring permanent chalk grassland to lock up carbon and increase wildlife
- Provide quality public access