The authority owns some 10,500 acres (4,400ha) of downland inside and outside the city’s boundaries – an area roughly half the size of the city itself. For years this has been managed by the council through specialist estate agents.
Historically, the council’s policy aimed to maximise income from farming, balancing this against social and environmental factors under the Downland Initiative. However the formation of the South Downs National Park and the growing interest in the environment, wildlife and ecology provides new opportunities. Councillor West added: “Some progress has been made with the Downland Initiative by our agents working with farmers. We now want to build on that by taking a closer role. The model we now want to look at is similar to how the council treated the seafront estate as a special case, developing it as a key part of the city’s offer. Since then, we’ve never looked back.
“With our good transport connections into the Downs, we have the opportunity to make the city the major gateway to the National Park.
“Running the estate in-house is just a first step toward setting the right conditions to enable that all to happen.”
Councillor Pete West, cabinet member for environment and sustainability, said: “We believe the change will help us build a stronger relationship with farmers and together explore opportunities to create new income.” "
From a Council press release.