The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) has been named as the preferred bidder for Seven Sisters Country Park and is announcing ambitious £1.4m plans, including improving habitat for seven key species and creating a world-class visitor experience.
Following a decision by East Sussex County Council’s Deputy Leader, a process will begin to finalise the terms and transfer ownership of the iconic 280-hectare site to the National Park Authority. The site will remain in public ownership and it is expected that the site will be fully transferred over and under the stewardship of the SDNPA by March 2020.
As part of a long-term plan to conserve and enhance the Country Park, the National Park Authority is announcing a number of plans:
· To improve habitat for seven important native animal and plant species which are indicators of biodiversity and landscape quality – the Breeding Lapwing, Adonis Blue Butterfly, Redshank, Meadowsweet, Ringed Plover, Reed Warbler, and the Wigeon.
· To create a world-class visitor experience through improved interpretation and education displays to tell the story of the Country Park’s landscape, habitats, wildlife and the effects of climate change.
· Refurbishment of the visitor centre and extension of its opening hours to improve the experience for visitors.
· Improved trails and bird watching facilities to make the Country Park a destination for wildlife watching.
· Careful landscape management to increase chalk grassland, grazing marsh and wet meadows to enhance biodiversity.
Trevor Beattie, Chief Executive of the South Downs National Park Authority, said:
“We would like to make it a national centre for biodiversity, conservation and climate change, telling the story of this extraordinary landscape to a wide audience and using it to test out new approaches to the national challenge of climate change.
“There is huge potential to create an exemplar in the management of chalk grassland and to create world-class wetlands in Seven Sisters Country Park.”
Cllr Nick Bennett, East Sussex County Council deputy leader, said:
“Keeping these sites in public ownership and transferring them to organisations with proven experience in conservation, involving local communities and improving the experience for visitors will safeguard their long-term future.
“I was really impressed by the commitment the South Downs National Park Authority has shown to protecting, enhancing and improving one of our most iconic sites.
“They have been able to pledge the kind of significant investment the council is not in a position to deliver, which will go towards improving biodiversity and creating a world-class visitor experience.”
The SDNPA will apply best practice from other nationally and internationally significant sites to improve the biodiversity and enhance the visitor experience.
Although interesting bird species such as avocets do visit the Country Park, they rarely stay. With expert management to provide a rich food source for birds, it is hoped that the area will attract much larger numbers of birds, as well as other native species, in the years ahead.