post by dave bangs
Make sure youse all highlight our demand for statutory access land designation on all Brighton Downland Estate land currently in Brighton's direct management, or which becomes available for new management when an existing farm tenancy ends, or is up for re-negotiation.
Linear footpaths and bridleways just aren't good enough for appreciating wild nature and the Downs.
Huge swathes of our giant Downland Estate are without open public access, though they were largely bought to safeguard such free and open public access on the old Down pastures (as well as, initially, for aquifer protection).
In Scotland, Scandinavia and much of Europe elsewhere people have a right of access to ALL countryside - with the obvious exemptions of growing crops, quarries, gardens and yards, golf courses etc.
In Sweden they call this ancient right 'allemansratten' - 'every man's right'.
We need a 'mini-allemansratten' for the whole of the Brighton Downland Estate!!!
Statutory access land ('right to roam' land) gives the public: -
- a right of access in perpetuity,
- a right of access to all walkers (but not to motor vehicles or horse and cycle riders),
- a right to walk a dog, though it must be on a short lead in the bird breeding season (1st March to 31st July) and in the presence of livestock.
- It does not give rights of access for commercial activities...and this includes commercial dog walking.
- Additionally, the Council can place a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) upon its open land to control anti-social behaviour with dogs. (Fouling, aggressive behaviours et al). These 'PSPOs' supercede the old Dog Control Orders.
This right of access represents a constraint against future attempts by councils to sell our Downland, because its statutory perpetuity would limit the ability of the council to sell the land at full market value.
It is thus an additional important protection for the permanence of the land as a public resource, free to all. Statutory access land does NOT constrain the council or its tenants' ability to manage the land with livestock. They can set aside up to 15 ha (37.5 acres) of land for lambing for 6 weeks, and can exclude in-use stock holding pens from public access.
Existing public access provision on the Estate is patchy and largely permissive only.
- The Council's great success was the designation of 90% of Patcham Court Farm as statutory access land...for which we must thank Green Cllr Pete West.
- Two other farm units have major footprints of statutory access land: Balsdean (around Castle Hill), Plumpton College (at Plumpton Hill).
- Seven large farms have zero open access by statutory right: Waterhall, Standean, Balmer, Housedean, Pickershill, New Barn Ovingdean, Home Farm Stanmer.
- Four farms have only small amounts of statutory access land on slivers of archaic chalk grassland: Mile Oak, New Barn Portslade, Upper Bevendean, and Grange Farm Ovingdean.
- Four farms have a major footprint of formal permissive access land: Paythorne, Grange Farm Ovingdean, Stanmer Home Farm, Standean at Patchway.
One of the most shocking things under the first Covid lock-down was to see huge areas of our public Downland remaining empty, when so many isolated and frustrated people needed to escape their cramped homes. Yet, during early lock-down, my sight of a large family - mum, dad and kids - free roaming across Loose Bottom Down, Falmer, was truly exciting! They walked it just as their grandparents would have done 70 years ago - before the bulldozers and ploughs destroyed its ancient open pastures and furze thickets.
They treated the land like they own it - AND THEY DO!!!