A comprehensive plan which sets out the policy, aims, objectives and vision to manage the city’s downland estate for the next 100 years, goes before councillors for approval next week.
With a focus on implementation over the next 10 years, the plan has a vision to create a: ‘rejuvenated City Downland Estate which will be carbon negative and climate resilient, its biodiverse grassland fully restored and teeming with wildlife, and a leader in sustainable farming, where local food production will flourish.’
The City Downland Estate Plan has been drawn up following one of the most extensive consultations ever carried out by the council.
For the past two years, council officers have been working with residents, farmers and representatives from groups and organisations across the city and beyond, to create the plan.
Consultation events have included two webinars and five online discussion groups, facilitated by community engagement specialist Planning for Real, and attended by more than 500 people. Throughout the consultation period, over 31,000 comments and ideas were put forward for consideration.
A draft plan, based on findings from the first consultation, was produced and a second round of public consultation followed this summer to help to shape the final document.
Now councillors from the Policy and Resources Committee are being asked to approve the plan at a meeting on December 1. If agreed, members of the South Downs National Park will be invited to endorse the final document as a Whole Estate Plan.
Protecting the water supply
The council’s City Downland Estate consists of around 12,500 acres and is mostly situated within the South Downs National Park. The estate was initially acquired by the council around 100 years ago, with the aim of protecting the town’s water supply and controlling development.
In 2006, the council created the City Downland Estate Policy, which aimed to reconnect the people of Brighton & Hove to a more biodiverse downland with better education, improved access, and sustainable agriculture. The policy delivered improvements to the estate, including a significant increase in public access.
Opening up land
The City Downland Estate Plan has been built upon the work started here, reflecting on the key challenges for the city and how the estate can play a key role in the lives of all residents.
By creating new amenities and opening up more land to the public, making it easier for all to visit and enjoy, the estate will fulfil its potential to boost the well-being of everyone who experiences it.
The new City Downland Estate Plan includes all council owned land within the South Downs National Park, the Agricultural Estate, parks and land used for leisure, sport and recreation. It aims to raise awareness of the Downland, reflect the values, hopes and ideas of those who use it, and link into the council’s carbon neutral and climate change agendas.
Key objectives include improving accessibility, reversing the loss of biodiversity and working towards (and beyond) carbon net zero. The plan identifies short, medium and long-term actions to support the achievement of these objectives.
Democratic accountability will be at the heart of all decisions affecting the estate.
Councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones, chair of the Asset Management Board, said: “More than 100 years ago, Herbert Carden and our city’s elected representatives made the decision to protect our city’s water supply. This plan will ensure we continue that work, protecting the City’s Downland for the next century.
“I am delighted that, after two challenging years of hard work and widespread consultation, we have completed our City Downland Estate Plan.
“It’s encouraging that so many people and organisations from all over the city have played a part in creating the plan, giving up their time to attend webinars and workshops and submit their views and comments.
“By working together in this way, we now have a plan that we can be proud of and one that will protect and enhance our precious downland for the enjoyment and benefit of current and future generations.”