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East Dean & Friston Residents' Association

Your voice as local residents


This brief history of the Greensward from the 1920s up to 2016, including its purchase by the Residents’ Association in 2012, is taken from Roy Webb’s original article. The full article is available here.

The Downlands Estate was originally part of Gore, Peak Dean and Summerdown farms. These farms were sold by the Duke of Devonshire to Edward Hobden in 1920, who then started to sell some plots for housing development. Later, in 1926, Frank Arnatt purchased much of what was Peak Dean Farm from Edward Hobden with a view to creating a planned garden estate. This was done through a company, East Dean Downland Ltd. Further purchase of land by this company took place through the 1930s, but it was Frank Arnatt’s intention to leave an area of open space in the middle of Peak Dean valley which later became known as the Greensward, surrounded by smaller houses along Deneside. The beginnings of this can be seen on old maps of the Downlands Estate from 1937.

The East Dean Downlands Company was later taken over by the Leighton Group which, in 1967, tried to build 20 houses on the area. However, their application was turned down by the then planning authority, Hailsham District Council. Partly as a consequence, the East Dean and Friston Residents’ Association, already 10 years old, got the Greensward registered as a Village Green in December 1974, giving it protection as a village recreational facility. However, Fairway Homes tried to get plans passed in 1984 to again build homes there, but the application was turned down by Wealden Council after much local opposition.

In mid-2012, the owners of the Leighton Group, still the legal owners of the Greensward and any other unpurchased land on the estate, decided to dissolve the company, which would have resulted in any non-purchased land reverting to the Crown. As a consequence, the Residents’ Association, through its Chair at that time, Roy Webb, with public financial support organised a rapid purchase in December 2012. The agreed vehicle for ownership was a Company Limited by Guarantee, East Dean Greensward Limited, with just one asset and no income or accounts. Restrictive covenants were placed on the area restricting its use in perpetuity to that of a village green, and the Residents’ Association effectively became the managing agents.

This remains the situation today, with the Residents’ Association being responsible for management through the EDGL Directors. Since 2015, the Parish Council has agreed to pay for grass-cutting, for which EDGL is most grateful as otherwise there would be no regular financial resources available. The area remains a Village Green (VG40 of East Sussex Council) under the Common Registration Act 1965) and is thus fully protected against future housing and similar developments. It is available for all residents to use and enjoy.

An illustrated booklet (no.61) on the Greensward can be purchased from the East Dean and Friston History Group at any of their monthly meetings, or online at https://www.edflhg.uk/booklets.