Future of countryside access to be discussed

Cllr Carl MaynardA NEW blueprint for the future of countryside access in East Sussex will be considered by councillors.

East Sussex County Council’s cabinet will discuss a proposal to consult on a draft Countryside Access Strategy for public rights of way and countryside sites at its meeting on Tuesday, April 26 2016.

The plan was drawn up following a survey of the public and other groups, which looked at how the county’s 2,000 miles of rights of way and 10 countryside sites are used, and other research into how they are used and how effectively they are managed.

The proposals would see the county’s footpaths, byways and bridleways continue to be managed by the county council after research found this approach worked well and offered good value for money.

However, management of eight of the countryside sites, including Ditchling Common, Seven Sisters Country Park and Camber Sands Dunes, could transfer from the council to other organisations.

All sites would remain open and accessible to the public and any transfer of sites would be subject to strict conditions over their use and only to organisations with a background in conservation and working with visitors and the public, which could take on the sites and manage them better.

The council says the changes would lead to increased community involvement in managing the sites and help people to improve their health, through exercise in green open spaces.

The strategy, if approved, will be subject to public consultation, allowing people to have their say on the draft plan. Comments received, along with other information, will be used to produce a final version of the plan.

Cllr Carl Maynard, East Sussex County Council lead member for transport and environment, said: “Our county is blessed with stunning natural beauty which is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

“It’s important that we ensure our public rights of way and countryside sites are managed as effectively as possible, to ensure they can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

“We will be looking closely at the proposals before starting the consultation, and any final decision will only be made once people have had a chance to have their say.”

The proposals can be viewed in full in cabinet papers online at https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=133&MId=2601&Ver=4 while more information about the project is available at https://new.eastsussex.gov.uk/leisureandtourism/countryside/futurecountrysideaccess/

Further information:

The 10 countryside sites in East Sussex are:
Camber Sand Dunes/ Johnson Field
Chailey Common Local Nature Reserve
Cuckoo Trail
Ditchling Common Country Park
Forest Way Country Park
Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve
Riverside Park
Seven Sisters Country Park
Shinewater Park
Weir Wood Local Nature Reserve

Under the plan, two of these sites, the Cuckoo Trail and Forest Way Country Park, would continue to be managed by the county council, as they are more like rights of way in their appearance and use.