Below are answers to some of the Frequently Asked Questions we’ve received in regards to the South Downs National Park Authority being named the preferred bidder for the ownership of Seven Sisters Country Park.
What are your plans for Seven Sisters?
Seven Sisters Country Park is an iconic site of international importance that is a gateway to both the Sussex Heritage Coast and the wider South Downs National Park. It also sits at the heart of a vibrant rural community.
Our vision is to create an outstanding habitat and world class visitor centre that together do justice to the landscape and the location.
The Authority is making a long-term commitment to Seven Sisters Country Park and is working with the South Downs National Park Trust to make substantial investment in the site.
This investment underpins the Authority’s long-term plans to conserve and enhance Seven Sisters Country Park to ensure that it continues to be an iconic, healthy and cherished place for future generations.
We want to deliver significant benefits through managing the landscape and improving natural habitats, as well as delivering a memorable experience for visitors so that they can fully understand, enjoy and care for this important landscape, while increasing the positive local economic impact of the Country Park.
This first phase of work consists of an investment of just under £2 million and focuses on ensuring the facilities are in place to effectively meet visitor numbers and to care for the landscape. This includes having adequate and accessible toilet facilities and parking, better signage to guide visitors, making caring for the landscape easier by having bins available for rubbish and supporting responsible dog behavior, and supporting people to travel by public transport.
See also When do you plan to carry out the refurbishment work to the visitor centre and will there be any disruption? below.
Are you looking to increase visitor numbers to the Country Park?
Our goal is to create a better experience for those visiting Seven Sisters Country Park. There are already between 500,000-1 million people visiting each year and we want to make sure that there are adequate and accessible toilets, signage, parking, bins and information, so that they can better find, enjoy, understand and experience the Country Park, leaving as little impact on the landscape as possible.
We also want people coming to Seven Sisters Country Park to see it is as a gateway to the wider Sussex Heritage Coast and South Downs National Park. We want visitors to feel empowered to explore further along the South Downs Way, or the soon to be extended England Coast Path, to travel on to Beachy Head and other local sites, and to enjoy the wonderful pubs, shops, breweries and vineyards that the local community has to offer, widening the positive local economic impact of the Country Park.
While we are not looking to necessarily increase visitor numbers, we also want to ensure that we are a National Park for everyone and we will be working hard with partners to ensure that young people and other under-represented groups are welcomed and enabled to explore and enjoy Seven Sisters Country Park.
When do you plan to carry out the refurbishment work to the visitor centre and will there be any disruption?
The first phase of work focuses around Exceat and includes:
- Improved facilities at Exceat for visitors including better signage, new and accessible toilet facilities and a refurbished visitor centre, and improving accommodation at Foxholes;
- Improved facilities for staff working in and around the Country Park;
- Better signage for the public so that people can better move around and engage with the visitor centre and wider Country Park.
There may well be some disruption while any proposed works take place. The areas focused on are at Exceat around the visitor centre and at the cottages and camping barn at Foxholes.
The rest of the Country Park should be largely unaffected and public access to the Country Park will be maintained. We will ensure that toilets continue to be available on the site throughout the works period.
We await the final decision from the Secretary of State and the required four-month conveyancing period that will follow, before we can confirm when work will begin.
Our aim is to carry out refurbishments during quieter periods.
Will there be any other work on the site in the short-term?
Tree survey work carried out by East Sussex County Council indicates that there are a number of trees in the Exceat and riverside carparks that are diseased and need to be removed for safety reasons.
These trees will most likely be removed by East Sussex County Council before the Authority takes ownership.
Will you be increasing parking charges?
The current parking rates have been fixed for a period of three years.
A large number of people already visit the Country Park using public transport (45% of those interviewed at Seven Sisters as part of our 2018 Visitor Survey had used public transport) and we will work with operators to make this more convenient and affordable for visitors.
What about the future of the Cuckmere River?
We understand that the Cuckmere is an iconic and important site for many, and we appreciate both the sensitivities and challenges facing the community in the Cuckmere Valley. There is no simple answer as to what will happen in the future. The Cuckmere Estuary is part of a dynamic coastline and the wider River Cuckmere Catchment, which is already being influenced by climate change and which will continue to be in the future. This could see a rise in sea levels and also more intense rain events which may result in both coastal and fluvial flooding, but also periods of drought.
In managing the Country Park, the National Park Authority is making a long-term commitment not only to the buildings and the Country Park itself, but also to helping to find a sustainable, agreed, long-term approach to managing the river valley and estuary that works with natural processes. We will continue to be an active member of the Cuckmere Estuary Group (involving key agencies, landowners as well as local community representation), which continues to explore alternative management options within the valley.
The Environment Agency is and will continue to be responsible for the main river, and for the management and prevention of flooding. The National Park Authority taking on ownership of Seven Sisters Country Park does not change this fact and the Authority does not gain any new rights or control over these issues when it takes ownership.
Once we become the landowner we will become a member of, and work closely with, the Water Level Management Group that brings all of the landowners together.
If you have a question that is not answered in any of the above, please email firstname.lastname@example.org