How should Durdham Downs be managed? Public survey launched

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The site costs half a million a year to run

The managers of Durdham Downs are asking the public what the common should be used for - as they set an ambition to self-fund the £500,000 maintenance bill each year.

The Downs, in north Bristol, is around the size of 130 football pitches and home to major events such as charity runs and festivals.

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But the impressive green space is as expensive to run as it is popular - £500,000 a year, to be exact - while the Downs Committee which manages it has reported an expected debt of £360,400 by the end of 2023.

At the same time the committee has set the ambition to move away from financial dependence on Bristol City Council, and raise all of the necessary funding.

Now the committee is asking residents for their views on how the site should be funded and what it should be used for going forward by launching an online survey which will run until April 19.

It asks if people support the Downs continuing to be used for a wide range of events, from large music events like the Downs Festival to charitable events like Race For Life.

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The Downs is the space of 130 football pitches and much-loved in the city - but expensive to run.The Downs is the space of 130 football pitches and much-loved in the city - but expensive to run.
The Downs is the space of 130 football pitches and much-loved in the city - but expensive to run. | jonaldopc - stock.adobe.com

The survey also asks if the committee should look at new buildings, or just maintain what is already on the site, plus how important people think space for conservation and recreation is.

It also asks what part of management of the Downs people would like to know more about, and how often the strategy should be reviewed.

Councillor Steve Smith, Lord Mayor of Bristol and chair of the Downs Committee, said: “We are focussing here on what we are trying to achieve for the people across Bristol and beyond who use The Downs.

“We know there are things we can improve about our governance as well, so we’re also taking the opportunity to ask some wider questions about how the committee is established and run, and the legal structures that underpin it.”

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The Downs are owned by the Society of Merchant Venturers, whose members have sat on the Downs Committee since 1861.

Under the Downs Act, the Downs Committee must have seven members from the society, which owns Clifton Down, and seven from Bristol City Council, which owns Durdham Down.

Despite calls from Downs for People for the Society to be booted off the committee, master David Freed said it was ‘committed’ to looking after the space ‘now and into the future’.

He said: “The Downs exists for everybody in Bristol, and has done for over 180 years. 

“We really want to hear from as many people as we can across the city.”

You can take part in the survey here or call 07769 285266 to request a paper copy.

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