7 November 2016

Downland estate

Non-core assets from Brighton & Hove’s Downland Estate were agreed for sale by councillors at the Policy and Resources Committee in July 2014, the Policy & Resources Committee February 2016 and the Policy, Resources & Growth Committee in July 2016. All disposals are assessed on a case by case basis and agreed by cross-party committees. The principle for this was also democratically agreed as part of the city council’s agricultural portfolio asset strategy set out in the council’s Corporate Property Strategy and Asset Management Plan 2014 - 2018. The sites chosen are non-core assets owned by the council, some of which are outside the city’s boundaries.

The land identified for disposal amounts to approximately 1% of the councils City Downland Estate.

Most of the Downland Estate is within the South Downs National Park and protected by the highest level of statutory protection possible. In respect of the land sold outside of the Brighton & Hove Authority boundary, the statutory body for control is either the National Park or other local authority irrespective of ownership.

Read about the disposal of non-core assets in the Stanmer Park report. The sites identified were set out in the part two confidential committee papers. Some sales information is commercially sensitive and remains confidential as the sales proceed.

Devils Dyke Field was an isolated part of the Estate sold to the tenant and Ridge Farm, Park Wall Farm land at Falmer was grazing land sold for this protected use. The residential properties identified for disposal are surplus to farm requirements non-core assets that do not support the management of the landscape.

When the council sells land we take advice from specialist agents to make sure appropriate control mechanisms are put in place to protect the council and the city’s residents against future development or possible changes in use. For example, St Mary’s Farm has a secure agricultural tenant farming the land and with a Higher Level Stewardship Conservation agreement in place.

Plumpton Hill Scarp is permanent pasture let to Plumpton College under a secure Agricultural Tenancy and is now subject to statutory open access. The land will continue to be farmed by the college post sale and the public access is now fixed in perpetuity. Poynings Field is used for arable production and has never had hang gliders or other public access.

Nothing is for sale in Stanmer Park. The majority of the money raised by the sale will be used to support the restoration of Stanmer Park, the HLF bid and the Stanmer traditional agricultural buildings some of which are at risk. We have to plan creatively so that funding is available to save one of the city’s most picturesque, historically significant and most visited parks. Disposing of areas of land which are less of an asset to taxpayers will enable us to protect Stanmer’s heritage for future generations.

The remainder of the proceeds will go towards supporting the council’s capital investment programme and budget strategy and will be spent on services that will directly benefit Brighton & Hove residents.