Clubhouse could move to help Waterhall rewilding

Council plans to take over the rewilding of Waterhall golf course could see the old clubhouse removed.

Members of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee agreed the council should take on rewilding the site after a prospective tenant pulled out.

Labour councillors Carmen Appich and Jackie O’Quinn put forward a case to remove the old building and replace it with a newbuild near the old farm and cottages at the meeting on Thursday 24 September.

The meeting heard that the community interest company which was going to rewild the former golf course pulled out as its plans for the clubhouse proved economically unviable because of lockdown.

However, this would not necessarily be the case for the ideas put forward by the Labour councillors, who suggested using a new building as a café, farm shop, rewilding project offices, or similar.

Councillor Appich said: “At the moment the clubhouse interrupts the views. It also sits right night next to some really good chalk land that could be better used in the rewilding project.

“We feel it would be a good idea to explore the feasibility to take down the existing house and then move it closer to the cottages further down the site.”

She said it would improve visibility and the rewilding project.

The Labour councillors also asked for more community consultation ahead of any changes and feasibility study.

Councillor O’Quinn said: “I’ve walked up in Waterhall for 19 years, it is a stunning place, a very special place.

“It really deserves to be rewilded, but I also emphasise the involvement of the community in this in consultation with lots of different groups.”

Green councillor Clare Rainey said after attending meetings with various community groups, there is interest from people who want to get involved.

She said: “It is clear there is a great deal of enthusiasm and a lot of really good ideas for how communities and residents can benefit from the project.

“I think high levels of community involvement in the rewilding process are really important and will ensure the great input that’s out there will be properly considered.”

Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth said he had spent a lot of time at Waterhall and while there with two of his children, they saw three adders, numerous slow worms and butterflies.

He said it is a “tragedy” golf club collapsed at Waterhall, but his group accepted the rewilding process.

Councillor Nemeth said: “I think it is probably worth emphasising, because it is a buzz word at the moment, that rewilding, in this case, won’t lead to anything like the Knepp Estate, which is mentioned in the report.

“This is because we are going to have far fewer animals, there are going to be lots of walkers and dogs, and we’re talking about a windswept downland rather than trees and a lake.

“That’s not a bad thing, that makes it tremendously exciting because we will be doing it our own way.”

Councillors unanimously agreed to the proposals, including more public consultation ahead of any marketing exercise.

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