Special report: The restoration of Brighton's Stanmer Park

Special report: The restoration of Brighton's Stanmer Park

Special report: The restoration of Brighton's Stanmer Park

First published in News
Last updated

A £5 million plan to turn back the clock at Brighton’s Stanmer Park has been unveiled. Tim Ridgway looks at the ten-year project to restore the historic open space to its 18th Century roots.

“When I go into town and tell people I live in Stanmer, they ask ‘where’s that?’

“There are quite a few people in Brighton who do not know it exists.”

Val Little is speaking from her home, perched at the entrance to the largest park in Brighton and Hove.

Her comment is not unfamiliar. Thousands of the people who live in Brighton and Hove are completely unaware that 5,000 acres of protected downland, woodland trails and historical buildings are on their doorstep.

To boost interest and preserve it for future generations, Brighton and Hove City Council is now drawing up a bid to bring £5 million into the park.

The dream is everyone – from picnickers to ramblers, mountain bikers to villagers – will benefit as steps are taken to restore it with a nod to its 18th Century roots.

Among the suggestions to “maximise its potential” are:

  • Bring Grade II listed Home Farm back into use;
  • Better accessibility with separate cycle and pedestrian paths;
  • Reintroduce livestock to slow down traffic;
  • Create offices for South Downs National Park.

If successful, most of the money will come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which recently supported the restoration of The Level in Brighton. But not everyone shares the council’s optimism.

Ann Markwick, who moved to the village in 1957, said: “If they think they can bring it up to the 18th Century standards then I’m a Spanish onion.”

There is currently only one route into the park which meanders up towards the 18th Century Stanmer House and adjoining village of cottages. It is shared by motorists, buses, cyclists, coaches and pedestrians.

Once they have arrived, the huge swathes of open space are often filled by people picnicking or walking their dogs.

Informal sports fixtures are also popular while some opt for a gentle stroll or afternoon tea.

Throw in a beautiful church and some of the best mountain biking trails in the south east, it is not hard to see why access is one of the biggest gripes with those visiting.

Mrs Little is one of a small number of people who live in the 23 homes in the village, most of which are populated by people whose families worked on the estate.

It is one of few public parks in the country to have such a collection of homes.

Mrs Little, who has lived in the village 44 years, said: “It’s not like it used to be.

“There used to be an orangery and when I used to sit in my garden there was very little noise. Now they have built two new roads nearby, not to mention the stadium, but that’s progress I suppose.”

Properties only become available in Stanmer when existing residents die.

Most are rented out with one of the smallest houses in the village costing about £1,200 a month.

Ms Markwick said: “We don’t have any facilities as such. We do not have the village shop or post office that used to have.

“If you want anything you have to go over to Coldean, the university or drive into town.”

She added: “Quite frankly I do hope people do forget about us.

“It’s an amazing village. If anyone is in trouble, everyone rallies round.”

Sarah Aldenhoven, who lives in New Church Road, Hove, is one of hundreds who use the trails for mountain biking.

She said: “It’s like a green oasis on your doorstep. It’s only ten minutes from town and I can combine a long ride with afternoon tea in Stanmer House. I absolutely love it.”

Local millionaire businessman Mike Holland sees the potential of the park.

He secured Stanmer House, the beautiful building at the heart of the estate, on a long term lease from the council in 2004.

He has since spent £5 million renovating the 18th Century manor house which is now a restaurant and wedding venue.

Mr Holland said: “A lot of people love it as they can get out and about and have a nice cream tea or stroll in the village, which is looking less tatty than it did before.

“But what really puts people off and is turning people away is that you cannot park anywhere.

“This would immediately mean people do not get muddy walking to their cars while travellers would not be able to enter.

“All they need to do is put in height restrictions and ensure there is proper enforcement.”

While some are calling for more parking, others are calling for less – or, at least, for the existing spaces to be patrolled.

For many years there has been an issue with students and staff leaving their vehicles in the park rather than pay in the nearby universities.

The addition of the American Express Community Stadium has also increased the pressure on spaces at weekends.

To ensure there is widespread public support, thousands of households will be asked their views on the park’s masterplan over the coming weeks.

This will then form the basis of a £60,000 bid for Heritage Lottery Funding under the Parks for People fund next August.

If successful, work could start in 2017.

Green councillor Pete West, chairman of the council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “Stanmer Park Estate is well loved by residents who are keen to see it restored and enhanced for future generations.

“With its beautiful setting and historic buildings, the park has huge potential to become an exciting and vibrant gateway to the new national park.

“We know there is widespread support from local people keen to contribute to any plans and I am keen to move forward with a bid to attract vital funding to support this exciting project.”

Comments (7)

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7:12am Tue 28 Jan 14

hyram77 says...

Having grown up in Stanmer Village I would be thrilled to see the park as a whole revamped. I'm afraid to say it is only a shadow of its former self nowadays. It seems the council have neglected the maintenance of the green areas and it generally looks unkept!
Having grown up in Stanmer Village I would be thrilled to see the park as a whole revamped. I'm afraid to say it is only a shadow of its former self nowadays. It seems the council have neglected the maintenance of the green areas and it generally looks unkept! hyram77
  • Score: 6

7:28am Tue 28 Jan 14

rogerthefish says...

The Council have neglected most things except for Bus lanes.
The Council have neglected most things except for Bus lanes. rogerthefish
  • Score: 12

7:59am Tue 28 Jan 14

Helen Ariel says...

Would hate to see more parking as this would eat into the green space. It's got great bus and cycle access. Stanmer is a lovely wild oasis close to a city just leave it as it is please.
Would hate to see more parking as this would eat into the green space. It's got great bus and cycle access. Stanmer is a lovely wild oasis close to a city just leave it as it is please. Helen Ariel
  • Score: 12

10:17am Tue 28 Jan 14

thelieshurts says...

Having being brought up in Coldean in the fifties.
When we were 7 on wards Stanmer was our play ground , knew every inch off stanmer great wood. The village was a lovely place, a working farm you could look around the sheds where the farm machines were kept, where they put the corn, watch the cows getting milked, was like learning trips.
Stanmer house was something else even though it looked derelict was still a lovely building, as kids you hear stories it was haunted as were the woods.
At the side off house was a pump or grinder driven by a donkey or a ox.
There's the church, the two ponds, was a sad day when it ceased to be a working village. Just read the shop has closed.
Stanmer estate is a place you can relax and just carry on walking straight up the road to Ditchling Beacon.
Infact Stanmer could be the gem of Brighton and hove.
Haven't been there for years now, hear it,s been a bit run down, it's a shame. Glad I have seen it when I did.
Having being brought up in Coldean in the fifties. When we were 7 on wards Stanmer was our play ground , knew every inch off stanmer great wood. The village was a lovely place, a working farm you could look around the sheds where the farm machines were kept, where they put the corn, watch the cows getting milked, was like learning trips. Stanmer house was something else even though it looked derelict was still a lovely building, as kids you hear stories it was haunted as were the woods. At the side off house was a pump or grinder driven by a donkey or a ox. There's the church, the two ponds, was a sad day when it ceased to be a working village. Just read the shop has closed. Stanmer estate is a place you can relax and just carry on walking straight up the road to Ditchling Beacon. Infact Stanmer could be the gem of Brighton and hove. Haven't been there for years now, hear it,s been a bit run down, it's a shame. Glad I have seen it when I did. thelieshurts
  • Score: 3

2:19pm Tue 28 Jan 14

fredflintstone1 says...

The car parking areas are often taken over by lived-in vehicles that are seemingly parked there permanently, not to mention cars from the university too, rather than being accessible to genuine park users. Why doesn't Cllr. Pete West tackle these issues now?

This project is going to end up as yet another of the Green's anti-car developments. And of course, they are now intent on introducing roaming livestock through the areas used by the public. Just what you want when walking the dog, or having a picnic, with the kids playing and falling over in a cowpat.

More bureaucracy too. Why does the SDNP need more offices? They've already lavished plenty of money on their Midhurst headquarters. This is just further evidence of the SDNP's continued empire-building at the public's expense, as was inevitable. It would be much better to reinstate the orangery, and the other buildings that form part of Stanmer Park.
The car parking areas are often taken over by lived-in vehicles that are seemingly parked there permanently, not to mention cars from the university too, rather than being accessible to genuine park users. Why doesn't Cllr. Pete West tackle these issues now? This project is going to end up as yet another of the Green's anti-car developments. And of course, they are now intent on introducing roaming livestock through the areas used by the public. Just what you want when walking the dog, or having a picnic, with the kids playing and falling over in a cowpat. More bureaucracy too. Why does the SDNP need more offices? They've already lavished plenty of money on their Midhurst headquarters. This is just further evidence of the SDNP's continued empire-building at the public's expense, as was inevitable. It would be much better to reinstate the orangery, and the other buildings that form part of Stanmer Park. fredflintstone1
  • Score: 4

4:03pm Tue 28 Jan 14

Brighton1000 says...

Love this park, Yes the farm would be great if it was once again a working farm. Does it really need cycle and ledestrian lanes built? Why is this council so bloody obsessed! The park has been fine since the neandarthal days, now it suddenly needs a bllody cycle lane!!!! grrrrrrrrrr, they are so frustrating!
Love this park, Yes the farm would be great if it was once again a working farm. Does it really need cycle and ledestrian lanes built? Why is this council so bloody obsessed! The park has been fine since the neandarthal days, now it suddenly needs a bllody cycle lane!!!! grrrrrrrrrr, they are so frustrating! Brighton1000
  • Score: 5

5:38pm Wed 29 Jan 14

BEPayne says...

Please comment on the future of Stanmer Church, is it due for reported demolition due to the need for repairs to save it.
Due to the rumour that Brighton Council has decided not to spend money to save it
Please comment on the future of Stanmer Church, is it due for reported demolition due to the need for repairs to save it. Due to the rumour that Brighton Council has decided not to spend money to save it BEPayne
  • Score: 0

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