6 November 2018


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 Party.



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 its integrity.

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 watching...


'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 Reserve

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 two.

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 City.

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



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

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