Arthur Collins

On re-reading Issue 206 of The Downsman I think I may just offer a possibly helpful comment in response to your request for members’ views on the outcome of the National Park campaign (page 9, 5th para.) My purpose is to endorse the significance of individual involvement, based on my experience of the consultation stage.

Rottingdean Parish Council and others were disappointed that Rottingdean as a historic village was not included in the area proposed for the SDNP. The reason lay in its physical connection with our neighbours in Saltdean – but there was compensation in the generous proposals for the surrounding open land. I was personally disapponted at the exclusion of three small areas – the mediaeval church at Ovingdean, St Dunstans home for blind veterans (now Blind Veterans UK) and the Rottingdean mini-golf course – and I entered reasoned objections on all three.

I was pleased that my submissions were so well treated – each printed as a document, followed by another considering (and rejecting) my argument. And I was invited to give oral evidence before the Inspector at a public hearing in Worthing.

On Ovingdean Church (not physically in Rottingdean) I was on slippery ground as the exclusion was based on a principle dating from 1947; and the Church effectively had maximum protection, being listed Grade 1. But there was a good discussion, led by the three officials from English Heritage in which a representative of the Ovingdean community took no part (although in appreciation of my effort he later drove me back home.) The final outcome was no change.

I was on better ground on St Dunstans and the mini-golf course, adjacent to each other and together taking the southern end of Beacon Hill, alongside the A259, almost into the sea. On St Dunstans the official side said that National Parks did not “do” hospitals; to which I indignantly argued that it was not a hospital but a home for our most deserving war wounded, the building was worthy and the setting superb. I was somewhat surprised that St Dunstans had no repesentative. The Inspector listened carefully and the final result is inclusion in the Park.

On the miniature golf course I was dismissively told that “pitch and put” courses were not to be considered – to which I replied that it was nothing of the kind but a challenging hilly miniature course with outstanding views and widely used for recreation in differing ways by Rottingdean residents. Again, the final outcome was inclusion in the Park.

The inclusion of these two areas made it logical for Rottingdean Parish Council’s bid to have the Park at this point leap over the A259 virtually to the foreshore to be successful.

I recognise that I may not have been on my own – Brighton Council may have commented – but I have never heard of any other direct representation to modify the original proposed line for the Park at this point. It was a very preoccupying matter for local authorities and other bodies which had so many representations to consider. So my sense is that individuals should be encouraged to put their views forward and not leave it all to those more professionally engaged. We can make a difference!

Arthur Collins, Rottingdean