Farmland on the edge of Brighton needs improving because the agricultural landscape is bleak, a resident told councillors.
Alex Mancey-Barratt said that Brighton and Hove City Council-owned farmland lacked natural diversity.
And at a meeting of the council’s Policy and Resources Committee, he urged the council to engage with tenant farmers to improve the land.
Dr Mancey-Barratt said yesterday (Thursday 24 March): “The farmland to the east of Falmer Road and some to the west falls into this category. This agricultural landscape is bleak and lacking in natural diversity.
“Such hedgerows as there are don’t really deserve the name while most field divisions are wire fences.
“The public footpaths crossing fields to the east are stark and unprotected. Trees are absent.”
The council owns 12,862 acres of farmland, of which 70 per cent is let across 16 farm holdings.
Green council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty said that although the downland may appear barren, the chalk grassland contained important biodiverse habitats.
He said that Castle Hill, to the east of Falmer Road and just north of Woodingdean, was a good example. It was a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and designated a national nature reserve.
Across the eastern side of Brighton, the council’s farmland is home to 574 species – from plants and fungi to reptiles – of which 58 have international conservation designations and 195 national conservation designations.
The estate includes eight statutory protected sites, local wildlife sites, SSSIs, nature reserves, areas of outstanding natural beauty – and much of the land falls within the South Downs National Park.
Councillor Mac Cafferty said: “This part of the estate is representative of Brighton and Hove open downland and does indeed contain some important and biodiverse habitats.
“Some may mistake the downland as barren (but) the East Sussex chalk grassland landscape is rich in biodiversity.”
The council is currently carrying out a consultation as it to draws up a plan for the downland estate for the next 100 years.
Councillor Mac Cafferty said that the plan would help the council to work with its tenant farmers to support wildlife through measures such as linking rare habitats through wildlife corridors.
The public consultation will start on the council’s website in the summer.