The South Downs National Park Authority is being asked to approve a masterplan for Stanmer Park this morning (Thursday 8 December).
The £6 million masterplan, submitted by Brighton and Hove City Council, involves restoring almost 50 acres of 1,200-acre park as well as some grade II listed buildings.
The council was given £300,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to work up the proposals being decided by the national park authority today.
If the masterplan is approved, the council hopes to secure a £3.7 million lottery grant towards the £5.8 million cost of the ten-year project. Its partners in the project include Plumpton College.
But some of the shortfall is likely to come from parking charges as the council tackles the parking problems currently afflicting the grade II registered park.
Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth described the way that the issue was being tackled as “parking mad”.
The campaign group has formally objected to the planning application, saying that it constitutes a major development and could set a dangerous precedent.
It said: “BHFOE is particularly opposed to increasing the amount of car parking by over 50 per cent and by the creation of a superstore-sized car park at its centre.
“This will undermine the park’s safety and enjoyment and could lead to buses being delayed.
“BHFOE accepts the need to expand the car parks around the edges of the park at the Lower and Upper Lodges. However, it is totally opposed to more spaces at the heart of the park.”
Chris Todd, from Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, said: “While we support investment in Stanmer Park, we cannot support the current proposals which will cause significant harm.
“Worse still, they could set a dangerous precedent for development elsewhere in the national park.
“More car parking at the edge of the park makes sense but to build a superstore-sized car park at its heart is madness.
“It’s a massive increase over what’s there now and will swamp the park with traffic.
“It will encourage more people to drive there which risks undermining the viability of the 78 bus to Stanmer Park.”
A report to the national park’s Planning Committee, which meets in Midhurst this morning, said: “Stanmer Park is a grade II registered park, which is on the Historic England ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register.
“A substantial portion of the park is also a conservation area and there are several listed buildings within its boundary, including the grade I listed Stanmer House.
“The proposal comprises two applications, one for planning permission and the other listed building consent.
“These seek permission for a schedule of restoration works to the Lower Lodge entrance, existing parking facilities, the Walled Garden pond and the Patchway, as well as the construction of a kiosk and repair work to the grade II listed Frankland Monument and Water Catcher.
“The proposal as submitted represents a masterplan for the restoration works, with final details of soft and hard landscaping, building conversion details and street furniture to be secured by planning condition.
“Parts of the proposal are acknowledged to have the potential to cause some harm to heritage assets within the park.
“However, it is considered that the wider restorative works and the wider public benefit in understanding and enjoying the historic significance of the park outweigh this harm.
“On this basis, the applications for planning permission and listed building consent are recommended for approval.”
Friends of the Earth said that the Patchway car park in the centre of the park would have 133 spaces, plus an overflow of 124 spaces which will be open all year round.
The group said: “Effectively the council is proposing to build a 257-space car park. Yet, within its application the council is claiming to want to reduce traffic within Stanmer Park itself.
“If this was the case, there would be no need for the 257-space Patchway car park.
“Currently there are a total of 395 car parking spaces within the park. This application seeks to increase that to 599 spaces, an increase of 204 spaces or 52 per cent.”