South Downs owned by the city set for a sustainable future 

The Downs and parkland in and around Brighton & Hove will be protected and enhanced for future generations through a new plan, launched this week at Wilding Waterhall nature reserve.

The City Downland Estate Plan covers around 13,000 acres of land owned by the council, including agricultural land and parkland used for leisure, sport and recreation. It aims to make sure that this vital asset on the city’s doorstep reflects the values, hopes and ideas of the whole community for decades to come.

It sets out aims and actions for the Downland Estate over the next 100 years, including:

  • Supporting the city to become carbon neutral through sustainable land and buildings management, reducing waste and initiatives to store carbon
  • Increasing biodiversity, tree planting and restoring rare chalk grassland
  • Providing an affordable and sustainable local food supply, through farmers, producers and community food growing
  • Improving health and wellbeing by increasing access to nature for all communities
  • Tackling water pollution and protecting the aquifer (groundwater supply) under the Downs, which provides the city’s drinking water

A sustainable approach for the future

Councillor Tim Rowkins, chair of the City Environment, South Downs and The Sea Committee, said: “44% of our city’s footprint is South Downs, and we have an enormous responsibility to protect this beautiful landscape. The fact that so much of it is publicly owned gives us incredible opportunities in terms of biodiversity, carbon neutrality, sustainable local food production and the wellbeing of our residents.

“78% of the Estate is farmland, and this plan seeks to transition from the late 20th century, intensive farming model towards a more sustainable approach for the future.

“Wild chalk grassland is incredibly species-rich, but 97% of what we used to have in the UK is now gone. This plan gives us the opportunity to begin to reverse that trend.

“We’re very excited to be able to start implementing this ambitious plan.”

Reflecting the views of the city

The plan is the result of more than two years’ work, including one of the most extensive consultations ever carried out by the council. More than 31,000 comments and ideas were put forward for consideration.

Residents, farmers, environmental groups, nature organisations, recreational users and the South Downs National Park Authority contributed to and helped shape the plan.

The City Downland Estate

The Downland Estate is in the South Downs National Park and home to a large farming community. It is also part of The Living Coast UNESCO biosphere reserve and is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

There are 3,000 allotment holders and more than 100 business tenants.

It includes around 175 km of public rights of way, heritage buildings, monuments and a listed park and garden (Stanmer Park).

The council acquired the land in the late 19th and early 20th century as it was important to protect the town’s water supply and control development.

More information

Read a summary of the City Downland Estate Plan 

View a map of the Downland Estate

Delivering our Council Plan to protect and enhance the city's natural environment.

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