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Brighton Downs Alliance Key Points and Principles for the City Downland Estate Plan

by Brighton Downs Alliance,



Brighton Downs Alliance (BDA)

We are a group of organisations, experts & community, campaigning for the fairer, sustainably managed & accessible public Downs of Brighton & Hove (B&H):

Beacon Hub, Rottingdean; Benfield Valley Project; Brighton Active Travel; B&H Archaeological Society; B&H Food Partnership; B&H Friends of the Earth; B&H Wildlife Forum; Butterfly Conservation Sussex Branch; Coldean Community Organisation; Campaign to Protect Rural England Sussex; Extinction Rebellion Brighton; Friends of Hollingdean Park; Friends of Waterhall; Friends of Whitehawk Hill, Keep Our Downs Public; Keep the Ridge Green; Moulsecoomb Forest Garden & Wildlife Project; Royal Agricultural University (NR); South Downs Society; Stanmer Preservation Society; Sustainable Design Collective Ltd; Sussex Bat Group; Sussex Socialist Environment & Resources Association: Sussex Wildlife Trust; Wild Flower Conservation Society - Brighton & Beyond; Woodingdean Wilderness Group

https://www.brightondownsalliance.org.uk/


Key Points and Principles for the BHCC City Downland Estate Plan


(SDNP Whole Estate Plan WEP) - BDA guidance

February 2021


POLICY PROPOSALS


1 Accountability, Transparency, Democracy


a. The WEP must be founded on a formal council commitment to the integrity of the Brighton Downs Estate, there must be no more sales of land or buildings.


b. The WEP process to be founded on partnership, with a steering group of councillors, officers, local experts and representatives of core interests, operational before the WEP is approved, and a steering committee, drawn from the steering group pool, to oversee the management unit.


c. The Downland Estate should be managed 'in-house' by a unit with its own staff, accountable to the Environment, Transport & Sustainability and Policy & Resources Committees.


2 Landscape & Ecosystem Restoration


We propose the stitching back together of the mantle of species-rich chalk grassland that covered most of our high Downs until less than a century ago.


3 Sustainable, Community-based Farming


a. All new or re-let farm tenancies to be run using regenerative and organic methods of farming,


b. Council commitment to: nurture / incentivise farming and food businesses that create fair farm-based employment, equal opportunity and diversity; improve soil health and biodiversity; connect local producers and local consumers; support community, co-operative farm businesses.


4 Statutory Access Over All Open Land

Statutory open access land designation for every site under BHCC management, subsequent sites coming under council control to be similarly designated for open access.


5 Archaeological & Cultural Heritage


a. Priority should be given to managing high value archaeological sites along with their landscape contexts and settings.


b. Other sites of high archaeological value should have priority for inclusion in landscape-scale restoration projects, permanent managed grassland for sites and settings, deep cultivation ceasing on Archaeological Notification Areas, lighter machinery utilised if / when cultivation continues.


c. All cultural heritage to be recorded and monitored, with the appropriate protection, conservation, information and interpretation, to preserve and celebrate our rich downland history.


BDA 10feb21


NOTES

1. Accountability, Transparency, Democracy

a. There is a history of covert land and building sales that have damaged the Estate's public potential, even now, farm cottage sales put in train despite council assurances no major sales or decisions would be made ahead of the WEP. In 2016 a potential community agriculture site, Park Wall Farm, sold, as was a nature reserve (bat cave, juniper, meadow), along with cottages and sites on the Dyke Estate. Earlier, Falmer Court farmhouse, cottages and listed thatched barn sold. After the 1995 public protest councillors agreed not to sell the Brighton Downs Estate, then East Brighton golf-course was quietly sold. During the outsourcing of the municipal golf courses in 2020 it was agreed such a process should never be allowed to happen again.

b. Bringing in partners and local experts to help BHCC manage this valuable resource provides real added value.

c. We must end management by an arm's length commercial land agency and Property department, to bring back democratic decision-making in the best interests of the people’s Downs. Any one-off or specialist issues can be dealt with through call-off contracts etc, the most efficient way of doing business. The SDNPA uses its partner BHCC for its financial management and WSCC for its legal services; the neighbouring National Trust, for example, with land agency and other functions, would be a trusted, ethical partner.

2. Landscape & Ecosystem Restoration

This must embrace all the scattered fragments of internationally rare chalk grassland, linking them up to enable species permeability through this precious habitat, helping to reverse the decline in our biodiversity, restore the much-loved pastoral landscape, protect our rich cultural heritage and have positive effects for soil health (and no soil erosion), aquifer safeguarding and carbon storage. See: https://friendsofthebrightondowns.org.uk/ This will involve the restoration and re-creation of permanent grazing pasture, with its high-value scrub, a long-haul commitment to the recovery of this grassland's important wildlife by a variety of techniques. The Brighton Downs Alliance and the predecessor Keep Our Downs Public have both published and presented proposed footprints and ideas for such a restored chalk grassland mantle.

3. Sustainable, Community-based Farming

a. To achieve genuine sustainable farming with an underpinning conservation ethos, all tenancies should be run on regenerative / organic grounds. 35 years of state-supported agri-environment schemes, only one Brighton Estate farm managed on an organic basis! Given our City's dependence on its chalk aquifer and its quality for our water supply, the prevalence of polluting agri-chemical inputs on our farmland must end.

b. The letting process should encourage community-supported agriculture on a whole farm basis, with co-operative operations taking the tenancies. Community agriculture markets its products by retail, avoiding the wholesale level and global commodity control. Many such businesses are organised on co-operative or collective lines, and/or owned by the local community in the form of shares bought by residents; local supply chains and other infrastructure of retail agriculture could be developed over time. In this model, there should be no fragmentation of downland farming into small units, with any multiplication of farmstead building sites, segregated field parcels or plots (as in much poorly managed livery management) or equipment clutter.

4. Statutory Access Over All Open Land

“Gains” in public access that are not statutory cannot be considered permanent or secure. There have been many examples of such access being withdrawn, such as mobility trails on Hill Barn golf-course, Worthing when the municipal club was privatised, withdrawal of sites and routes at the break-clause or end of agri-environment agreements, and ephemeral permissive path licences.

Statutory access land designation should cover all the land, grassland, woodland, arable, all this public land has public interest, not just permanent pasture. Ploughland, fallows and headings, woodland and scrub have historically been considered public space in many places and periods too. Exceptions should only be over growing crops, livestock holding pens, private gardens, farmyards or other premises, which is not permitted on statutory access land anyway (or countries like Scotland and Sweden with a statutory right of general access, allemansratten) and should apply to commercial activities and unconstrained access by dogs. Open public access provides multiple benefits, health and well-being, contact with nature, social inclusion and more.

5. Archaeological & Cultural Heritage

a. The core action must be these notable, designated sites and their settings, which also have high wildlife interest; this double-value, high value archaeological sites retaining high value archaic grassland cover, has long been recognised and needs to be acted on. Examples include Loose Bottom's valley-head entrenchments, Whitehawk Hill's causewayed camp, Hollingbury and Ditchling Beacon hill forts.

b. We think of such sites as Balmer Down field system, Tenantry Hill Mile Oak 'Roman encampment', the Bostal barrow cluster and Bullock Down cross-dyke, both at Woodingdean.

c. The asset audit’s existing records will highlight gaps. Action to be taken on known heritage now plus annual reviews, priorities, resources, timescales, to accommodate any new information.

* This principle should apply across the WEP. SDNP WEP guidance: Vision – Asset Audit – Ecosystem


Services Analysis – Action Plan.

Reminder of why the Downs was acquired: safeguarding our drinking water; development control; public access.

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Kim Greaves 7 months ago
Fully support this. This contribution from shows the breadth of expertise that the community and representative organisations have. This should be used to steer this process with the sense of urgency, clarity and attention to detail that the Downland estate requires. Our estate has such potential to be of great benefit to the community and ecology. A steering committee built of stakeholders is clearly required to draw up and enact this plan.  
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dncntylr 8 months ago
I absolutely support these points. Well put - if we take the idea of 'climate crisis' seriously, these suggestions would be a move in the right direction. I really hope the action taken on the WEP is not watered-down, but this sort of meaningful action as described above.
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doraviv 8 months ago
Whole Estate Plan for the City Downland Estate Submitted by Brighton Active Travel
Brighton Active Travel November 2020
The Downs should be accessible to everybody in Brighton and Hove, including the 37% who do not have access to a car. We deplore the fact that noise and pollution from cars ruins the tranquillity and clean air of the Downland estate. Car parks also reduce the aesthetic appeal of the Downs. ‘Cosmetification ‘ of car parks behind hedges etc is not the answer; the aim should be to reduce demand and space for car parking.
Many of the problems accessing the Downs via walking, cycling and bus are interlinked, but we have divided them up into approximate categories.
Some rural roads should be designated Green Lanes; in particular the road from Ditchling Beacon to Ditchling should not be accessible to through traffic. We need a Downland access officer who is able to promote access to the Downs by public transport. Their remit should be to:
● Keep an up to date website for easy access to the Downs via walking, cycling or public transport. See below on better information on bus routes, signage, information and bus stops.
● Investigate all parking breaches and ensure necessary fines are issued.
● Liaise with the South Downs National park, west and east Sussex County Councils, bus services, amenity groups and all other interested parties. This should be paid for by realistic parking levies and contributions from other organisations.
Bus Services
77 to Devil’s Dyke to run daily throughout the year
78 to Stanmer Park to run daily have a much improved service running later in the day. There is now a housing estate in Stanmer park and residents should be encouraged to use the bus. 79 to Ditchling Beacon to run daily throughout the year. It should start and finish at St Peters Church on days of major city centre events (e.g. Pride Parade and demonstrations) so its schedule is not disrupted by slow traffic. This kind of change is done with the 12X when the city is gridlocked – its start moves from the centre to the Aquarium and avoids most of the jams.
17 Bus Brighton to Horsham to resume half hourly weekday service and full Saturday and Sunday service.
2 Bus to Steyning to operate a fast route as 2X 5 Bus to Hangleton and from there to the Downs needs better publicity.
5 Bus to Ladies Mile Road needs better publicity to get to Chattri 11X bus from Brighton to Eastbourne should be reinstated and be run as a regular daily service. There is no bus service from Brighton along the A27. There are other bus services which offer access to the Downs. These need to be publicised on websites, in the bus timetables and in the names of the bus stops. Better bus services to be paid for with higher parking charges at Stanmer, Devil’s Dyke and Ditchling Beacon and all other car parks on the Downs.
Designated 77, 78, 79 buses should carry bicycles.
Walking
Traffic light cycle and pedestrian crossings over Devil’s Dyke Road where path debouches from Devil’s Dyke Farm allowing crossing of road to eastern footpath.
Clearly marked sign-posted trail to the Chattri. Removal and enforcement of parked cars along Devil’s Dyke Road.
Traffic lights across A273 on Hassocks to Brighton Road by the golf club allowing safe crossing for walkers and cyclists at South Downs Way. Improved crossing at Old Boat Corner.
A traffic light crossing is needed on Falmer Road, Woodingdean (B2123) at Drove Road/ Drove Avenue.
A crossing/refuge needed on Falmer Road where it crosses bridleway, east of Falmer Hill, at GR TQ 35778 07483 Warren Road: - awful environment for people on foot [and bicycle and horseback], awful trying to cross to between the bridleways either side; traffic speeds far too fast for horses in particular; no proper direct crossing points where needed.
Wilson Ave: terrible crossing point inside the racecourse. It's particularly bad westbound as camper vans park up on a verge reducing the sight lines to about 20m - really dangerous trying to cross where cars will keep their speed up to get to the signals a few yards away
Ditchling Road: Upper Lodges car park crossings (There are 2) to the Bridleway opposite: blind bends, traffic speed too high, no warning about crossings
Ditchling Road: northernmost end of Stanmer estate to Beacon: this should be an accessible link between the Beacon & SDW and the Stanmer estate, but it's horrible, very inhospitable.
The road between Ditchling Beacon and Ditchling should be made accessible only to walkers, riders, cyclists and residents. This would also alleviate some traffic in Ditchling.
Coldean Lane/Old Boat Corner - pedestrian access into Stanmer is terrible.
The Chattri. There is another route up Church Hill and Vale Avenue but no allowance is made at the top for people attempting to cross the blind corner and major roads, though you do see people going that way. From Patcham there is also a route to Ditchling Road and Stanmer via Ladies Mile Road, but you do have the Carden Ave roundabouts to deal with – again no allowance for anyone on foot or cycle.
Cycling
Traffic light cycle and pedestrian crossing where cycle path debouches from Brighton and Hove golf club. Much improved cycle priority to the two roundabouts at confluence of A27 and roads leading to Brighton and Hove. See below for comments on Toad Hole Valley.
A cycle park is needed at the start of the Dyke Railway Trail in Hangleton, there's a car park with no cycle parking.
There's a footbridge across the A27 just East of the A23/A27 interchange and another two off Coldean Lane but none is well signposted and the former drops you onto a bridleway that follows the A27 to Stanmer (and is thus noisy). The latter two take you directly into Stanmer.

 Much better signage is needed.
The City Downland Estate Plan should be seeking at all times to reduce demand for roads and car parks. They are unsightly, noisy and polluting. Cosmetic changes to roads and car parks are not a substitute for a real reduction in car travel. That is why measures to close the road from Ditchling Beacon to Ditchling are so important. Car parking charges should reflect the real cost of land use for parking. All car parks should have clearly signposted cycle parking.
Planning
The proposed Toads Hole Valley development (link above) is poor on walking and cycling infrastructure and will encourage car use. Shared use paths are not popular with people walking or cycling. It is preferable for each mode to have separate provision. The site is designed around car use. The proposals include poor linkage to ongoing cycling/walking routes and lack of priority at side roads for people walking/cycling. The proposals for people to cross the major roads and the two roundabouts are dangerous and totally inadequate and continue to prioritise the passage of motor traffic. The SDNP parking consultation ended on 19/11/20 and does not appear to be co-ordinated with the City Downland Estate Plan:
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Admin Commented MattPoole 8 months ago
Thanks to all at the Brighton Downs Alliance for this detailed and extremely useful submission. Careful consideration will be given to the opinions and ideas you have put forward. Your comments and suggestions will be considered alongside all the consultation results which will help shape the City Downland Estate Plan.
 
With regard to land and building sales, we would like to reassure BDA’s members and residents that any proposal to sell land or buildings that the council owns is done in accordance with the council’s constitution. Decisions are made in public by councillors at committee meetings where members of the public can ask questions, send deputations and submit petitions as part of an open and democratic process. Committee agendas and associated reports are published on the council’s website. 

City Downland Estate Plan Project Team
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Ross McNally 8 months ago
I would largely agree with this, with the exception that dogs should be banned from protected areas, and the addition of the need for greater woodland recovery.
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