A comprehensive plan to manage the city’s downland estate for the next 100 years has been endorsed by South Downs National Park Authority amid glowing praise.
The Brighton & Hove City Downland Estate Plan, which sets out the policy, aims, objectives and vision for managing the estate, went for before SDNPA’s Policy and Resources committee last week for final endorsement.
Setting the bar
Members were hugely complimentary and, following the presentation, SDNPA officers commented that the plans had had the ‘smoothest passage through the Policy & Resources Committee of any Whole Estate Plan to date’ and that the council had ‘set the bar for public consultation.’
The Plan, which was approved by Brighton & Hove city councillors in December last year, is the result of over two years of work, including one of the most extensive consultations ever carried out by the council.
Councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones, chair of the Asset Management Board, said: “The Downland Estate is a hugely valuable asset for all our residents, and as custodians, it is our duty to ensure that this precious land is protected and enhanced for future generations.
“I am delighted that, after two challenging years of hard work, we have a plan we can be proud of, one that recognises the importance of the city downland as a biosphere reserve and a place where breath taking views sit alongside complex ecosystems.
“I’d like to congratulate everyone who has helped us to reach this important milestone, from the organisations which have worked alongside us, those who attended webinars and submitted their views and comments and, of course, the council officers who worked so hard to ensure this was a truly inclusive and accessible process.”
The council has long recognised the great importance of the City Downland Estate, which is home to a large farming community, as well as an area of outstanding natural beauty where residents can benefit from a wide range of leisure and wellbeing activities.
Work on the City Downland Estate Plan started back in 2020, when council officers began been working with residents, farmers and representatives from groups and organisations across the city and beyond.
The aim was to provide a vision and overarching framework to help and support future decision -marking across all land and property that falls within the City Downland Estate boundary.
Consultation events 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.
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.
Health and wellbeing
“As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, we look to the downland for quality public access to help improve residents’ health and wellbeing and, particularly in light of the cost-of-living crisis, we need to look to the downland as a potential resource for producing affordable local food sustainably, including through community food-growing,” added Councillor Hugh-Jones.
“By creating new amenities and opening up more land to the public, making it easier for all to visit and enjoy, we are confident that the estate can fulfill its potential to boost the well-being of everyone who experiences it.”