Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport
10.1 The Lead Member considered a report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport, together with exempt information contained in a later agenda item, and correspondence received following publication of the Agenda. The Lead Member also took into account the comments of the Countryside Access Review Board of the Place Scrutiny Committee.
10.2 The Lead Member RESOLVED 1) To approve the publication of Notices in relation to the following transfers:
(a) Ditchling Common Country Park to be leased to the Sussex Wildlife Trust for a peppercorn rent through a long lease with the S106 funds for the Ditchling Common Management Contribution (c £400k) also transferred;
(b) The freehold of Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve to be transferred to Newhaven Town Council subject to the final terms being agreed for this and Riverside Park;
(c) Riverside Park to be leased to Newhaven Town Council for a peppercorn rent and for the lease to be subject to appropriate restrictions in relation to the history of the site as a former landfill site.
2) To award South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) preferred bidder status with a view to transferring the freehold of Seven Sisters Country Park subject to the completion of an agreement regarding the terms of the transfer. To delegate authority to the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport (CET) to agree the terms of any transfer and to publish notices in relation to the transfer. These terms will include (a) reference to the preliminary negotiation and offer from SDNPA submitted in December 2018 and (b) negotiation of a clawback clause such that the County Council would benefit from the proceeds from any future sale, transfer or development.
3) To delegate authority to the Director of CET to agree the terms of any transfer of East Sussex County Council land at Broomhill and Camber to Rother District Council and to publish notices in relation to the transfer.
4) To delegate authority to the Director of CET to agree the transfer, and the terms of any transfer, of management responsibility for:
(a) Chailey Common Local Nature Reserve to another party considered appropriate by the Director of CET;
(b) Weir Wood Local Nature Reserve to another party considered appropriate by the Director of CET, and;
(c) Any changes to the terms of the Local Nature Reserve agreements (other than the names of the parties) be reserved to the Lead Member for Transport and Environment for decision.
5) Delegate authority to the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport in consultation with the Assistant Chief Executive to take any action he considers appropriate to give effect to or in consequence of, the above recommendations including determining the terms of, and entering into, any further agreements necessary.
10.3 The Countryside Access Strategy approved by Cabinet in June 2017 contained the recommendation that the County Council explore the transfer of its countryside sites to suitable external organisations that may be able to manage these in the future.
10.4 It is clear that doing nothing is not an option – if this were to happen, the County Council’s countryside management service would continue to incur a £50k cost per year and the countryside sites would not benefit from much needed investment. The evaluation, options analysis and preliminary negotiations have demonstrated that the proposed transfers can deliver all of the benefits of a transfer in line with the Countryside Access Strategy.
10.5 The transfer of interests of at least four and potentially up to seven of the eight countryside sites has been identified as feasible and is considered the best means of the achieving the objectives of the Countryside Access Strategy.