One of the best and boldest decisions Brighton Council ever made was to buy the Stanmer estate after the Second World War for a knock-down price.

But in nearly 70 years since then, councillors have managed to ruin the park’s priceless beauty because they had no idea of how to preserve it.

The history of Stanmer is |one of missed opportunities, shameful decision-making, lack of vision and squalid squabbling.

Now we have yet another masterplan for Stanmer and I don’t suppose this one will fare any better than the rest.

Stanmer should have been seen as the beautiful border of Brighton where the countryside meets the town, with the handsome Palladian house as its main attraction.

Instead councillors established Sussex University on several hundred acres of farmland, allowing Sir Basil Spence’s ghastly concrete and red brick buildings to urbanise great swathes of countryside. It isolated Stanmer Village and ravaged Falmer.

For 20 years Stanmer House was let to the university and then it was neglected to a point where it nearly fell to pieces. The council had few ideas for its future and no money.

Only action by Steve Bassam, then council leader, and developer Mike Holland saved it from becoming a ruin.

Support by councillors for the Brighton bypass led to the downland dual carriageway destroying ancient woodland and ending tranquillity on the east side of the estate. Breaking up the woodland edge facing Coldean also allowed severe storms to be far more destructive than in the past.

All the animals were taken out of Home Farm, ending its main attraction to visitors. The plant nurseries and organic gardens became a scruffy, unappealing area hidden away from |tourists.

A rural museum was established but has never lived up |to its potential and |needs to be open more often.

Road access to the park and house is poor and parking is highly unsatisfactory, with car parks consisting largely of muddy, ugly patches scattered at random near the entrance lane.

Some good things have happened. Thanks largely to Mike Holland, the house has reopened. It is used both for meals and wedding receptions.

For many years there has been an hourly off-peak bus journey into the park at holiday times and there is a good service from Brighton to the Lewes Road entrance.

But attempts to make better use of the park have been doomed to disappointment, not helped by feuding between some of the villagers and users.

Stanmer should have been the place to establish a countryside centre, telling townies what to see and offering opportunities to explore the area by foot and bike.

It was always the obvious location for the new South Downs National Park but instead it went to Midhurst, a town well off the beaten downland track and with poor public transport.

Now the council is planning to create both a visitor centre and room for the park authority in a bid to obtain £5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It also intends to renovate the farm and says livestock will be reintroduced to slow down traffic – although I fancy sheep crossings would be less effective than zebra crossings.

If this is approved, there is more work that should follow. Priority should be given to stopping football fans heading for the Amex stadium and students at both universities using Stanmer as a car park.

Improvements are urgently needed at the Upper Lodges car park and better access is also needed from points on the Ditchling Beacon road. The Coldean Lane car parks are scruffy and unkempt.

Trails need to be better cared for and more clearly marked, with full information available at the new visitor centre.

Much more should be made of Stanmer’s intriguing history.

This should include the vital role played by successive members of the Pelham family, whose generosity in selling the estate for such a low sum has allowed people to enjoy a park on their doorsteps.

For many years under the control of different parties, Brighton has declared itself to be a green city.

Yet the way it has treated Stanmer shows that claim to be a sham.