East Sussex County Council has new plans to “transfer ownership” the Seven Sisters County Park, it has been announced today (June 7).
A proposal to hand over the running of the beauty spot to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) is to be considered by council bosses next week, alongside plans for three other countryside sites.
If given the go-ahead as preferred new owner, the organisation has pledged £1.4 million to improve the environment and visitor facilities at the 280-hectare site near Seaford.
Cllr Nick Bennett, East Sussex County Council deputy leader, will consider the proposal next week alongside plans to transfer the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve and Riverside Park countryside site to Newhaven Town Council, and Ditchling Common Country Park to Sussex Wildlife Trust.
The four sites were among those identified for possible transfer in the county council’s Countryside Access Strategy, which was approved by cabinet two years ago.
Rupert Clubb, county council director of communities, economy and transport, told the Herald, “I think it’s really exciting, it’s a public body, they have got good levels of expertise.
“Local authorities are under increasing pressure and don’t have that capacity to invest money in these countryside sites.
“We know it’s really valuable for people locally and want to make sure it’s managed really well. One of the best ways to do this is working with the SDNPA to bring a brilliant visitor experience.
“It’s making sure this really important site is fit for the future. We think they’d do a fantastic job.”
The proposal would mean the Seven Sisters remains in public ownership.
Trevor Beattie, chief executive for South Downs National Park Authority, said, “We are grateful to East Sussex County Council for considering our proposal to further enhance this wonderful national and international icon.
“If approved, we look forward to working with the county council and many other partners to deliver a world-class visitor experience while also increasing the biodiversity of this precious landscape.”
He told the Herald part of the SDNPA’s plans included informing and involving the public in its projects, as well as a focus on the impact of climate change.
Mr Beattie said, “Climate change is going to make a real difference to this environment. At some point the sea will come in and this will become a floodwater landscape. When it does happen I want us to be ready for it and I think telling that narrative about the change that’s going to happen to this landscape is important. It’s a real opportunity to discuss the solutions.”
Ouse Nature Reserve
Under the plans, Newhaven Town Council would receive a freehold on the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve and a long-term lease on Riverside Park, while Sussex Wildlife Trust would lease Ditchling Common Country Park.
Jacky Main, clerk to Newhaven Town Council, said, “We are delighted East Sussex County Council is considering allowing Newhaven Town Council to take ownership of these two much loved open spaces to enable them to be looked after by the local community and enjoyed for many, many years to come.
“If approved, we will work with the county council, the local community and other partners to enhance the ecology of both sites and to improve recreational and educational opportunities for local people and visitors to the town alike.”
While Henri Brocklebank, director of conservation at the Sussex Wildlife Trust said, “We look forward to the exciting opportunity to further the work of ESCC in caring for this site on behalf of the local community and wildlife.
“We look forward to meeting and working with everyone who values this treasure of a Country Park on the doorstep of Burgess Hill.
“We know there is much to do in conserving and enhancing this site, and to manage public access to the benefit of the many users who love this natural greenspace – one of the priceless jewels of the Green Circle that rings the town.”
Cllr Bennett will make his decision at the transport and environment lead member meeting on Monday, June 17 at 2pm.
More information is available in the meeting papers at the East Sussex County Council website.