Eastbourne beauty spot ownership changes hands after years of negotiations

Seven Sisters Country Park now has a new owner which should ensure it ‘remains in public hands’ according to the council.

The ownership of the iconic 280-hectare country park has been transferred to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) following two years of negotiations.

The site was previously owned by East Sussex County Council.

SDNPA has committed just under £2 million investment to help create a world-class visitor centre, as well as a long-term goal of improving habitats for wildlife.

Seven Sisters Country Park (photo by Rudiger Nold) SUS-211108-155504001

This month, work started on refurbishing the visitor centre and the toilet facilities have re-opened.

Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the authority, said, “Today marks a new chapter for Seven Sisters – a truly iconic site of international importance that is a gateway to both the Sussex Heritage Coast and the wider South Downs National Park.

“We want to build on the work done by East Sussex County Council to create an outstanding habitat and world-class visitor centre that together do justice to the landscape and the location.

“Our significant initial investment underpins the Authority’s long-term plans to conserve and enhance Seven Sisters Country Park, ensuring that it continues to be an iconic, healthy and cherished place for future generations.”

Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority. SUS-211108-155449001

The authority has a number of long-term plans to improve the site for people and nature:

• Spending just under £2 million to improve the current facilities at Exceat, including a refurbished visitor centre, new toilet facilities, a locally-sourced and sustainable takeaway food service, better signs, as well as renovated accommodation and facilities at Foxholes.

• Better signs for the public so they can explore and understand the history and wildlife of the country park.

• More bins available for rubbish and recycling.

• Improving the habitat for a wide range of plants and animals.

• Alinah Azadeh will serve as the ‘writer in residence’ until the end of 2022. She will explore Seven Sisters and the wider Sussex Heritage Coast through a series of writer retreats, workshops, podcasts, walks and live events.

• A website to help people plan their visit.

• There will be careful landscape management to improve chalk grassland, grazing marsh and wet meadows to improve biodiversity.

Trevor said, “The site is part of a vibrant rural community and we want to widen the positive local impact of the country park. We want visitors to feel empowered to explore further along the South Downs Way, or the new England Coast Path, to travel on to other local sites, and to enjoy the wonderful pubs, shops, breweries and vineyards that the local community has to offer.”

Councillor Claire Dowling, lead member for transport and environment at East Sussex County Council, said, “The transfer of the Seven Sisters Country Park to the South Downs National Park Authority is great news for the residents of, and visitors to, East Sussex.

“Protecting our countryside sites for future generations is a top priority for the council and the Authority is an organisation with a great track record of conservation and safeguarding public access to the countryside.

“I am delighted that the transfer, which ensures this iconic Sussex beauty spot remains in public hands, has been successfully completed.”

A dedicated Seven Sisters team is operating an information van seven days a week over the coming months to support visitors to enjoy and care for Seven Sisters.

Peter Cousin, the new commercial manager for Seven Sisters, said, “The team and I are thrilled to be onsite and interacting with the public. Everyone we have spoken to have been so positive and supportive of our plans for improving the visitor facilities and also our work to help nature to thrive on the site.”

For more information visit: www.sevensisters.org.uk