Brighton Council & Hyde Housing Association
Plan the Destruction of local nature reserve in working class Whitehawk
This is a
guest post by David Bangs, a local environmental campaigner and member of the Labour
PROPOSED HIGH RISE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT
SENIOR PUBLIC SPACE
A site for a major housing project has
been proposed at Whitehawk Hill, as a result of the grossly flawed Brighton and
Hove Urban Fringe Assessment Survey of 2014. The
new Living Wage Joint Venture Board (LWJVB), set up 50:50 between Hyde Housing
and BHCC, has targeted this site for 217 homes in six tower blocks of equal
height to the highest adjacent existing blocks.
OK to chop Whitehawk Hill in two ?
Whitehawk Hill is Brighton’s senior public open space and most important
Downland landscape. The proposal to build a major high rise housing development
at its heart is monstrous.
It will hack this landscape in two, destroying
Would it be OK to chop Preston
Park or Hove Park
in two ?
If it was suggested that Preston Park
or Hove Park be chopped in two it’d be a
no-brainer that the scheme was daft.
Because Whitehawk Hill is next to Brighton’s most deprived community
it is thought safe to propose its dismemberment, despite the Hill being richer
in many public values than those two public parks…in wildlife, deep history and prehistory, for free play in nature, for landscape,
Downland views, food growing, foraging, horse racing, dog walking, badger
‘Fish and chip Downland’ and ‘cream tea Downland’
Whitehawk Hill is ‘fish and
chip Downland’, not ‘cream tea Downland’. That is why it is attacked.
The trashing of Whitehawk
Hill is an ‘equalities issue’, though no mention of this is made by the Council.
2002: Good enough to be in the National Park !
2018: Only good for a high rise housing development ?
In February 2002 the full
Council voted for the inclusion of the whole of Whitehawk Hill in the proposed
National Park. Though a small group of councillors later got this
undemocratically overturned in the P&R Committee they accepted the inclusion of the
proposed housing site and the wider hill slope in the National Park.
How come this landscape was good
enough for all Parties to agree it should be in the National Park in 2002, and
in 2018 it’s okay to site a major housing development there?
Recreational common / statutory Local Nature Reserve /
statutory Access Land / Scheduled Ancient Monument
Whitehawk Hill’s multiple
public values are reflected in a wealth of designations.
In 1822 the
106 acre ‘Race Ground’ (a recreational common) was created by deed at the
enclosure of Brighton’s commons. The deed
stated it was for “the inhabitants of Brighton
and the public in general”, for “racing, exercise and diversion”.
The new common was not be to “broken up, cultivated, or divided.”
In 1923 the 12
acre Whitehawk Camp Neolithic causewayed enclosure was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
(SAM) – one of the ten best such sites in the country.
In 1997 the
whole Hill was declared a statutory Local Nature Reserve (LNR).
In 2002 the
City Council voted to support its inclusion in the proposed National Park.
In 2003 it
was declared to be statutory Access
Land under the ‘CROW’ Act
(Countryside and Rights of Way Act).
Wildlife as good as Castle Hill National Nature
The ancient Gorse thicket on
the proposed housing site is home to rare and special scrubland birds. It is a
well known site for Dartford Warblers, Stonechat and Whitethroat, with numbers fluctuating over
time, and with hard or mild winters. For many years local residents have
watched Badgers play. Rare insects
like the Large Velvet Ant (actually
a primitive kind of ‘cuckoo’ wasp) are present. It is home to the giant Great Green Bush Cricket.
The wildlife community of Whitehawk Hill is at least
5000 years old and probably much
older. Its wildlife is comparable with that of the Castle Hill NNR, with Adonis and Chalkhill Blue butterflies, rare
wildflowers and pasture fungi (the best assemblage in the city).
Horribly neglected, punch-drunk, but still
standing…Will our Council now deliver the knock-out blow to our ancient Hill
Whitehawk Hill is horribly
neglected and its users sold short by our Council. In recent years it has suffered piecemeal development. – more Racecourse infrastructure, Wyevale Garden Centre, and more – and the neglect
of many of the management tasks in the LNR Management Plan (notwithstanding the
HEROIC work of the Countryside Service ranger and volunteers). But its
wildlife and archaeology still survive.
We should be re-unifying The Racecourse Landscape (Whitehawk
Hill / Sheepcote Valley / Red Hill) not breaking it in
If this goes through, more will follow
If this proposal goes through
it will set a precedent in Brighton and other local councils, for breaking up their
core wildlife sites when pressed to find land for housing and other developments.
This is a city-wide, regional
and national issue, not just a local one.
The proposals, at the crowded
northern end of a crowded suburb, will, if built, drive huge further pressure
for a direct road link with the adjacent road system (Elm Grove, Warren Road, Freshfield Road etc).
Pressures to further encroach
on the broken fragments of remaining high value landscape will grow steeply.
The need for housing
We passionately support the case
for a major drive to build, buy, and purchase back more council homes in our
We see whole areas of low
density, high cost, under-occupied housing, with privileged levels of private
garden space, at the heart, and at the edge of our city, which could do far
more to accommodate council homes.
We see major housing schemes
go ahead in which the driver is more private sector high cost homes, not homes
for the low waged and no waged.
We see major housing schemes
go ahead in which the needs of temporarily resident students are privileged
over those of our poorer residents, the homeless and poorly housed.
We urge the council
to re-focus on driving forward more sites for council homes, if necessary at
the expense of high cost housing, student accommodation, and some employment
and retail uses, but NOT at the expense
of nature or our cherished public open spaces.
Whitehawk Hill is as important to Brighton as the Royal Pavilion
RESPECT ITS INTEGRITY CHERISH IT
Write/email your local Brighton & Hove City councillor. (The Council website
will give you those details).
Write to/email members of the
Housing, Planning, and Environment Committees of Brighton and Hove City Council
Write to/email Hyde Housing.
(Go to )
Write to/email the BHCC Board
members of the LWJVB (Living Wage Joint Venture Board) which governs the
Whitehawk Hill building project. They are Cllr Anne Meadows, Cllr Mary Mears, & Cllr David Gibson
Dave Bangs T: 01273 620 815; October 2018SOME NOTES
Dave Bangs T: 01273 620 815; October 2018