My wife and I bought our house in Bramber village in the early summer of 2016. We’d lived on the other side of Bramber for some years and I’d been a local parish councillor since 2014. I knew the area very well and much about the history of the village. We purchased the property knowing that there had been a string of unsuccessful planning applications to develop the land at the side and to the rear. However, we fell in love with the setting and our daughters could walk to the nearby school in Upper Beeding.
In the late summer of 2016, whilst on holiday with my family, an interesting new listing appeared on the Rightmove website…
“40 acres of former floodplain for sale to the north of Bramber village.
Development potential and suitable for a variety of uses (subject to necessary consents)”
A friend sent a message to tell me about the listing. I knew the land well – it was to the rear of our new house, with the access being immediately adjacent to our driveway. The information included a map of the land, showing that it ran from the castle ruins in the west to the waterline of the River Adur to the east, the whole width of Bramber village.
The listing said nothing about the incredible history of the site, the rare medieval salterns or the moated area where medieval buildings would have stood. There was no mention of the badgers, foxes, roe deer or the rich variety of birds, flora and fauna which had been left undisturbed since the land was seasonally grazed almost thirty years before by the Wiston Estate. It was presented as an opportunity for speculative developers or those with particular uses for the land until future development ideas could be unlocked.
Almost immediately on my return, we were approached by several keen prospective buyers, each with their own designs and each wishing to sell us a small area of land behind our house to help fund their purchase of the whole site.
One prospective purchaser was a tall Irishman, who was keen to meet me. We spent a couple of hours walking around the land. He said that he was negotiating directly with the sellers and that a contract had been issued to his solicitors. He wanted to have year-round ‘glamping’ on the western side and a permanent ‘party field’ on the eastern side which would be available to hire for weddings and parties. The only vehicle access would be next to our house and a concrete road was to be built with new electricity and water services.
He had spoken to English Heritage about the large tents to be erected within the Scheduled Ancient Monument site and they had provided clarity on how deep he could drive tent pegs and whether concrete hard standing areas could be created. He had a large topper being delivered from his father’s farm in Ireland and was going to clear the whole land to see where the concrete road and services could be run.
He had also asked a sound consultant to visit the site to determine where music speakers would be best located to counter any noise complaints from neighbours!
He offered us a small area of land next to our house and was hoping to speak to other neighbours to offer them similar plots.
Another budding buyer was a company that also had plans to run a concrete road through the land with water and electricity services. They wanted to place shipping containers on the site, on concrete pads and plumbed into the new services. Each container would house residential tenants paying rent. To overcome planning restrictions, they would move the containers to other concrete pads every 28 days! Again, they offered us a small area of land to buy.
It was clear that fast action was required!
The current owner was a speculative Malaysian developer, living in London. I managed to make contact with him directly. He made it very clear that he was not willing to sell just part of Bramber Brooks and was looking to sell the whole area of land to a single party.
I continued to speak and negotiate with the prospective buyers for a small area of land, while my solicitor made haste to collect searches and legal paperwork. I negotiated a price with the current owners and very quickly the price escalated as we were played off against the other parties.
I spoke to Andrew, my business partner, and we agreed that it would be good for our company, Riversong Ltd, to acquire Bramber Brooks. We both have a passion for nature and share connections with the local area. Riversong had been supporting local charities for a number of years and the purchase of land for the protection of wildlife matched the ethos and aims of the company and our staff. The same day we agreed that Riversong should buy the land, our solicitor received a contract and we exchanged!
And so the journey began …