28 May 2014

Biosphere is nearly here!

The Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere partnership will find out next week if the area is to be designated as a new international Biosphere site. The decision will be taken when the United Nations body UNESCO meets in Sweden next week (10-13th June) to award the prestigious accolade to new proposed areas worldwide.

The Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere partnership has spent six years developing the bid proposal, which was submitted to UNESCO in September last year and has received favourable feedback.

Once approved, our Biosphere will be the first completely new site in the UK in almost forty years, as well as being  the only such area in south-east England and one of only a handful that include major urban settlements worldwide. 

Chair of the Biosphere partnership, Chris Todd says; “We are now very close to realising the result of six years’ strenuous effort by numerous local bodies and individuals, and are keeping everything crossed for a positive outcome (expected on 11th June,) from when our efforts to look after and improve our local environment will take a place on the world stage”.

Jeremy Burgess, Eastern Downs Area Manager for the South Downs National Park and Vice Chair Biosphere partnership said: “The South Downs has specific legal protection granted by its status as a national park – the highest designation for landscape in the country. In the Biosphere we want enhancing quality of life, the local economy and the environment to develop hand-in-hand and this international recognition would help to attract more people and funding to promote and research how we can achieve this.”

Where is it?

The proposed Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere will cover all of the land and near-shore coastal waters between the two rivers of the Adur in the west and the Ouse in the east, so includes the South Downs National Park block here as well as the city of Brighton & Hove and neighbouring towns of Lewes, Newhaven, Peacehaven, Shoreham, Telscombe, Southwick and Shoreham Beach.

An international Biosphere area would bring the three environments here of downs, town and coast together under a flagship initiative to not only look after and improve the natural environment, but also better engage people in the nature on their doorsteps and promote action to reduce the environmental impacts of our lifestyles.

What is it?

The aim is to become a “world-class environment”, as part of an international network spanning some 600 sites in over 100 countries that share best practice and bring people and nature together while seeking to balance the needs of both.

The Biosphere bid is being led by Brighton & Hove City Council, working in partnership with some forty organisations including other local authorities and public bodies, and voluntary, educational and private sector bodies also.

Notes to Editors

Biosphere Reserves are internationally recognised by UNESCO as “sites of excellence” to balance conservation and socioeconomic development between nature and people, and explore and demonstrate innovative approaches as learning sites for sustainable development.
There are 621 sites across 117 countries that make up the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; the UK presently has five sites, of which three are active modern Biosphere sites: North Devon (England), Dyfi (Wales), and Galloway & Southern Ayrshire (Scotland).
Biosphere Reserves are not statutory restrictive protected areas, but are places where people work together to pursue “win-win” solutions that improve our quality of life and local economy whilst enhancing the local environment.

Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere:

Our Biosphere has three objectives to be jointly delivered:

  • Conserve and enhance nature
  • Support human development that is sustainable
  • Encourage environmental knowledge, learning and awareness and engagement

The Biosphere Partnership’s priorities for action to make improvements are on: environmental awareness; outdoor recreation & eco-tourism; water use and quality; and green space networks.
Our Biosphere brings together three distinct but connected environments:      

Countryside – which is part of the South Downs National Park (our Biosphere’s ‘Buffer Zone’, and including ‘Core Areas’ – Sites of Special Scientific Interest)
Coast – extending 2 nautical miles out to sea in the English Channel (our Biosphere’s marine ‘Buffer Zone’ and ‘Transition Area’)
City & Towns – Brighton & Hove, Shoreham, Lewes, Newhaven, Peacehaven, Telscombe, Southwick and Shoreham Beach (our Biosphere’s land ‘Transition Area’)

The Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere Partnership is made up of 40 different local organisations, including all of the local authorities as well as other public bodies and representatives from the voluntary, private and educational sectors.
When inscribed by UNESCO In June 2014, our Biosphere will be: one of only a handful of sites with major urban settlements worldwide; the first completely new site in the UK in almost 40 years; the only site in south-east England.

Facts and figures:

  • Almost 1500 local people have signed up as “Friends of the Biosphere” supporters.
  • The Biosphere project has been presented at 150 public events/meetings over 2 years.
  • Almost 1,800 individuals inputted to the public consultation run in early 2013, of which around 95% supported the Biosphere proposal and its objectives.
  • Our Biosphere area is the block of land and sea between the River Adur at Shoreham in the west and the River Ouse at Newhaven in the east; it covers 389 square kilometres (or 150 square miles), an area just larger than the Isle of Wight.
  • 371,500 people live here, and the area receives around 12 million visitors each year.
  • The area has an approximate economic value of £7 billion.
  • Thousands of species of wildlife occur, including >200 international conservation priorities.
  • Internationally important wildlife habitats include chalk grassland on the South Downs, vegetated shingle beaches, and undersea chalk reefs.
  • The local environment provides us with many of our daily needs, including clean water, fresh air, local food, and open space for recreation.



Jeremy Burgess, Eastern Downs Area Manager for the South Downs National Park and Vice Chair Biosphere partnership jeremy.burgess@southdowns.gov.uk

Sean Ashworth sean.ashworth@environment-agency.gov.uk