Bidders to take over countryside sites across East Sussex revealed

Seven Sisters country park SUS-170629-084114008
Seven Sisters country park SUS-170629-084114008

The future management of the Seven Sisters Country Park and other countryside sites across East Sussex is to be discussed at County Hall next week.

Last year, East Sussex County Council’s cabinet agreed to look at transferring the responsibility for running eight sites it either owned or managed to outside organisations.  

But the council is now expected to continue its involvement in more of the sites than originally expected, as there have been no expressions of interest in taking over sole management of either Camber Sands and Shinewater Park in Eastbourne.

The next stage of the process is to be discussed at a meeting on Monday (July 16), where the lead member for transport and environment is expected to sign off on further assessment of the council’s options.

A council spokesman said: “At this stage, our report to lead member gives an update on the offers that have been made, and seeking permission to further consider the various offers we have had.

“Should we get permission, the next stage in the process is to fully consider and assess the various offers that have come in to date.   That process will be in line with the strategy approved by cabinet last year.”

The eight sites put forward for takeover in the strategy were: Seven Sisters Country Park; Ditchling Common Country Park; Chailey Common; Shinewater Park; Ouse Valley Nature Reserve; Riverside Park; Broomhill Sands; and Camber Sand Dunes.

The strategy also sees the council continue to manage two of its countryside sites – the Cuckoo Trail and the Forest Way Country Park – as well as maintain public rights of way  around the county.

While no groups have expressed interest in taking full responsibility for Camber Sands or Shinewater Park, there have been suggestions of a partnership agreement with the council.

According to council reports, The Sussex Wildlife Trust has said it would consider managing both sites in partnership with the county council or another organisation. It has made the same offer for Riverside Park and the Seven Sisters Country Park.

The trust has separately expressed interest in a leasehold arrangement for the management of Ditchling Common Country Park and the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve,  as well as to increase its role in the management of the Chailey Common and the Weir Wood Local Nature Reserves.

Other groups to come forward include the National Trust and the South Downs National Park Authority, which have expressed interest in the freehold of Seven Sisters Country Park and in working in partnership with other organisations to manage the park.

Meanwhile Newhaven Town Council has expressed interest in the leasehold of Riverside Park and the freehold, leasehold or cooperation in the management of Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve.

Additionally The Kitesurf Centre, a private business, has expressed interest in either leasing or buying the council’s land at Broomhill Sands, where the company is currently a tenant.

A council spokesman said: “The Kite Surf Centre already leases a part of Broomhill Sands from East Sussex County Council to run its business.  Broomhill Sands is simply a gravel-surfaced car park to the east of Camber Sands.

“It’s common for a suitable business to lease a section of land from us.  This is beneficial in two ways; it can help to improve what the site offers to the public  – in the case of Broomhill Sands and the kite surfing, an activity that would otherwise not be available, while providing a steady income stream to ESCC.  Additionally, the Kite Surf Business benefits the local economy.

“As part of the review, The Kite Surf Centre has proposed that they may wish to either lease or buy a larger section of the car park to expand their business.  That would then enable the centre to improve the ‘visitor offer’ on site, by providing more facilities or visitor activities/attractions.”