Report by Director of Communities, Economy and Transport
13.1 The Cabinet considered a report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Environment
13.2 It was RESOLVED to:
(1) note the results of the public consultation in relation to the draft strategy;
(2) agree the continuation of discussions with external groups in relation to future ownership/management of countryside sites; and
(3) approve the strategy and to delegate the implementation stage of the strategy to the Lead Member for Transport and Environment.
13.3 The majority of the consultation feedback is positive, and the Cabinet has therefore approved the strategy. The Cabinet are also agreed to delegate the strategy’s implementation stage (e.g. potential arrangements for the handover of sites) to the Lead Member for Transport and Environment.
Report by Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.
8.1 The Assistant Director, Operations introduced the report, setting out the background to the Strategy and next steps with a report going to the Cabinet meeting on 27 June 2017. The Team Manager, Rights of Way and Countryside, gave a presentation on the Strategy, which outlined the Scrutiny Committee’s involvement, consultation feedback and the next steps for the Strategy.
8.2 The main recommendations of the Countryside Access Strategy are:
· The management of Rights of Way (RoW) should stay in house;
· East Sussex County Council (ESCC) will seek to transfer management of eight Countryside Sites to other suitable organisations; and
· The department should seek to maximise income to support the service.
8.3 The ETE Scrutiny Review Board supported the in-house management of Rights of Way and income generation that supports the service. In regard to the Countryside Sites, the Board supported the transfer of sites to other suitable organisations with safeguards to protect public access and wildlife.
Public Consultation Results
8.4 The Team Manager, Rights of Way and Countryside summarised the results of the public consultation. Of those who responded to the consultation, 80% supported retaining the management of RoW in house, and 56% supported transfer of the management of Countryside Sites. Comments received from organisations included the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) who supported the transfer of Countryside Sites and are interested in managing sites. The only Local Authority to object to the transfer of sites was Wealden District Council, who were reassured that the management of the Cuckoo Trail will not change.
Comments from residents and other stakeholders
8.5 The comments from residents and other stakeholders included:
· Requests for more detail on the Countryside Site proposals, in order to be able to comment on them properly;
· There was a view that the Seven Sisters Country Park (SSCP) should stay in ESCC management as this was such an important and iconic site for the County.
· Chailey Common Local Nature Reserve (LNR) – The comments received about this site strongly objected to transfer of management as the respondents thought that ESCC is doing a good job in managing a complex site, and do not want this to change (ESCC does not own this site).
· Wier Wood – The respondents were happy with current ESCC management and were worried that site management will suffer if ESCC was not there to act as a link between the landowner (Southern Water) and the Friends Group.
8.6 The Team Manager, Rights of Way and Countryside explained that the next stage for the Strategy was a report to Cabinet on 27 June 2017, which will ask Cabinet to note the consultation results and agree the Strategy. The report will make it clear that the implementation of the Strategy will not include the option of a private sale of any of the Countryside Sites, and ESCC will only work with suitable organisations that have track record of good site management. The department will appoint a new Project Manager to lead on the ... view the full minutes text for item 8