Final terms of Seven Sisters deal set to be agreed

Seven Sisters country park SUS-190328-164302003
Seven Sisters country park SUS-190328-164302003

The final terms of a deal to hand a Sussex beauty spot to a new owner are set to go before a senior county councillor next week. 

On Monday (January 20),  East Sussex County Council’s lead member for transport and environment Claire Dowling is set to consider the final terms of a deal to transfer ownership of the Seven Sisters Country Park to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA). 

As part of the deal, the SDNPA would commit to immediately investing £1.4m into the park as part of a project to improve visitor facilities at Exceat, council papers say. 

In a report to be considered by Cllr Dowling, officers for East Sussex County Council said: “The SDPNA have also outlined how they intend to make further improvements to the park to significantly improve the visitor experience subsequent to the initial £1.4 million investment. 

“The SDNPA ambition is currently for a further £13m, but this will be dependent on successful bids for funding including an ongoing application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.”

As part of the proposed deal, the SDNPA would also commit to freezing parking fees at the park for at least three years, ensuring the permanent right of public access and working with the county council on the future management of Chailey Common.

The deal would also include a clause requiring the county council be asked for their approval for the disposal of any land or property from the park in the future, with the council able to buy it for £1 if it wishes.

However, all these terms would be subject to the deal being approved by the secretary of state.  Officers are prepared to submit the bid to the government should Cllr Dowling approve it, council papers say. 

The same meeting will see Cllr Dowling consider the final terms of deals on three other council-owned sites – Ditchling Common Country Park, the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve and Riverside Park in Newhaven.

If approved, Ditchling Common Country Park would be taken on by the Sussex Wildlife Trust through a long lease and peppercorn rent.

As part of this arrangement, Sussex Wildlife Trust would gain use of a £400,000 fund held by the county council.

The fund forms part of the S106 money from the Kingsway housing development in Burgess Hill, which is tied to the management of Ditchling Common Country Park and the mitigation of the impacts of the housing development on it.

The remaining sites would be transferred into the control of Newhaven Town Council.

If agreed, the town council would own the Ouse Estuary reserve on a freehold basis and be given a long-term lease to Riverside Park.

The principle of East Sussex County Council entering into these agreements had previously been approved at a meeting in June last year.