What could be done with the site?
The council wants Blacknest Fields to be used in ways that generate better community value. The Blacknest Fields Working Group has suggested 19 potential site uses, and has also filled knowledge gaps about the legal and physical status of the site, as detailed in the ‘Dossier’. It discovered:
- The Blacknest Recreation Ground (front field) and ‘Allotment Gardens’ (rear field) were acquired in 1852 by the ‘Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor’ (precursors to parish councils). The land is still held in a Charitable Trust and must be used for the charitable purposes of ‘providing exercise and recreation’ and ‘for the (labouring) poor’, respectively. The Charity Commission would need to approve any change in land use. It has advised: “If the land can still be used for its original purposes, this use should continue.”
- The Blacknest Recreation Ground is also a registered Village Green, which should be open for public access. This could not be sold unless it is de-registered by the Secretary of State and various tests met, including provision of exchange land at least as big as the original green and more convenient and beneficial. If the Recreation Ground was sold, and a new ‘exchange’ site purchased, this would require significant investment, rather than generating
- The wildlife value of the site is quite exciting. The site also has potential to assist with flood resilience and carbon capture.
What’s been decided so far?
In July, the council voted to retain Blacknest Fields.
In August, the Working Group is presenting a development ‘Routemap’ at the parish council meeting,
By December, the council will agree a clear Development Plan for the site, which will also address how to provide public access to the site’s ‘Village Green’ land.
What are the next steps?
Two low-key community events are being held at the site in September – an early evening woodland walk on 7 September and a lunchtime community picnic on 18 September – to ‘introduce’ Blacknest Fields to the community. Everyone is welcome. [See attached flyers for details.]
The council is discussing ideas with organisations such as the South Downs National Park and the Wildlife Trust, as well as inviting the community to contribute further ideas to the Plan for the site.
Do get in touch if you have suggestions about how the council’s acres at Blacknest might best be used to meet community needs!
Blacknest Fields Working Group Chair: email@example.com