Just over a year ago, a group of volunteers stemming from Friends of Beacon Hill met with the shared vision of acquiring the redundant pitch & putt golf course at Rottingdean as an annexe to the existing Local Nature Reserve, and to re-develop the kiosk building to create a learning space relating to local ecology and heritage for the enjoyment of Brighton & Hove residents and visitors of all ages.
Situated just 3 miles to the east of Brighton city centre, between Rottingdean & Ovingdean and within the boundary of the South Downs National Park, the land is owned by Brighton & Hove City Council. Initially, the council had sought a commercial tenant for the land and proposals were put forward for leisure activities including setting up an off-road course for Segway machines. Thankfully, and largely due to concerted objections from local people, none of these schemes were considered appropriate and the Beacon Hub group were invited to present a sustainable business proposal.
Support was sought for the project, with encouraging messages forwarded by numerous influential institutions including Rottingdean Parish Council, local schools and individuals including BBC Wildlife broadcaster, Chris Packham who states: “Brighton is one of the liveliest, most interesting & cosmopolitan cities in Europe and it is perched on the edge of one of the most important pieces of habitat that we have anywhere in Europe too. The downs are a great repository of unique life, a beautiful landscape and a treasure trove of history and culture. Developing an educational focus point for Brighton¹s populace to better enable them to engage with this fabulous and valuable part of the world is quite simply a fantastic and irresistible idea. Please support it!”
It was decided that the group should pursue their aims as a Chartable Incorporated Organisation under the title of Beacon Hub Brighton and after much research, a 62 page proposal was presented to the City Council last July, requesting that Beacon Hub Brighton CIO (recently recognised by the Charities Commission) be granted a 15 year lease, that the land should become part of the nature reserve allowing space for public amenity, and that permission be granted to re-develop the existing building. Significantly, Brighton and Lewes downs were recently awarded UNESCO Biosphere status and the project’s educational, community led ethos is in many ways complimentary to this.
In August 2014, the council’s Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee met in Hove where a delegation of the group’s trustees learned the exciting news that the committee had decided to award them the lease and were fully supportive. Since then, things have moved forward with David F Smith Surveyors and local architect Kinga Hoffman donating their work on layouts to optimise available space on the existing kiosk footprint, in order to create a classroom able to accommodate 30 children, as well as providing a lobby area with contextual displays, a small office, kitchen with external serving hatch and appropriate conveniences. Although the existing building is not listed, it was decided in consultation with the Brighton & Hove Heritage Commission that as much of the original external appearance of the building should be retained because of its context and proximity to the Rottingdean smock windmill.
Once the building plans are finalised, planning permission will be sought and quantity surveying will inform a target for fundraising through the Heritage Lottery Fund and internet crowd funding. Funding was given a head-start with a generous pledge of £25,000 from a local resident and should efforts to raise the required amount be successful and timely, that building work should begin in the autumn of 2015. Most recently, negotiations have begun with Brighton & Hove City Council regarding terms of the lease for the building and land management of the golf course area. Law Firm DMH Stallard kindly offered legal advice for this purpose. Fundraising is also proceeding with the Rottingdean Miniature Air Show to take place at Longhill School on March 14th, with all proceeds being donated to the project. Other fund raising events are also planned for the coming year – details will be publicised once confirmed.
In the meantime, the Beacon Hub Brighton volunteers hope to garner as much financial and practical support as possible from local individuals, companies and organisations. If you would like to get involved with the project by donating your time, skills or resources, please contact BHB Trustee, Jay Butler: email@example.com You can get up to date news on the project and pledge support at: www.facebook.com/BeaconHubBrighton
BEACON HUB BRIGHTON Charitable Incorporated Organisation (Reg. Charity No. 1,159,583)
Trustees: Libby Darling, Clive Bonny, Atlanta Cook, Jay Butler & Jo Spickett