Council sets out ”comprehensive” plan for Eastbourne Downland

Cabinet councillors are set to approve a 25-year plan for Eastbourne’s iconic downland, starting with two initial projects to put the area on the map as a world-leading environmental destination.

Eastbourne Borough Council has worked closely with the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) over the last two years to complete a Downland Whole Estate Plan (WEP), which focuses on conserving and creating a sustainable future for the estate, and supporting tenant farmers.

At its next meeting on July 15, Cabinet is expected to agree the plan and confirm a prioritised list of possible future projects outlined within the document, focusing firstly on Beachyhead Countryside Centre and currently redundant Black Robin Farm buildings.

Existing resources would be used to ensure the countryside centre plays a key role in signposting activities, promoting the downland and supporting education and volunteering activities. Alongside this, subject to a future business case, Black Robin Farm would become a place for people to learn about and engage with the Eastbourne Downland through workshops and courses, while cottages there could provide holiday accommodation with an eco-tourism focus.

Councillor Jonathan Dow, Cabinet member for Climate Change, said: “It is hugely important that we look after our beautiful downland for future generations to enjoy and this comprehensive plan sets out how we will achieve this.

“The projects at the countryside centre and Black Robin are set to bring great improvements to our Downland Estate where we can trial new approaches to green energy, land use and eco-tourism. These will be a catalyst for future exciting opportunities to make the Downland sustainable through partnerships and projects with the SDNPA, Eden Project, National Trust and many others.”

The council’s downland sits within the South Downs National Park and consists of about 3,000 acres of farmed land as well as 1,000 acres of open access downland.

An initial vision for the council’s Downland WEP was agreed in June 2019, followed by a public consultation earlier this year with responses taken into consideration for the final version of the plan.

Subject to Cabinet’s agreement, SDNPA will consider its endorsement of the plan in September.