Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC), in partnership with Towner Eastbourne, has
been granted planning permission to create a world-class arts, education and
cultural centre in the unique landscape of the South Downs National Park. It is expected
work will begin on the centre at Black Robin Farm in 2024.

Black Robin Farm, situated on a site that was formerly a dairy farm, and embedded in
the rolling South Downs landscape, will transform lives by connecting communities and
visitors with the outstanding nature, landscape and cultural heritage of the Downlands
for health, wellbeing and education. It is planned to be a new type of culture centre where
art, culture, heritage and ecology will come together as a new eastern gateway to the
South Downs.
Black Robin Farm will offer a new destination for 100,000 visitors annually within five
years, revitalising Eastbourne’s visitor economy and bringing sustainable growth to the
town and more broadly to East Sussex. Visitors will engage in the cultural heritage of the
South Downs through public artworks in the landscape, exhibitions, creative activities,
artist and maker events and a high quality, locally sourced and sustainable food and
drink offer. Black Robin Farm will be designed with sustainability and site specificity at
its core, by Stirling Prize shortlisted architects Feilden Fowles, with a commitment to
achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
The landscape-led project will also act as a catalyst to connect the iconic landmarks
of Beachy Head, Birling Gap, Seven Sisters and Cuckmere Haven. With new walking,
cycling and sustainable and accessible transport routes between the sites, it will provide
a coherent visitor offer for the 1 million national and international visitors to the region
each year.
Joe Hill, CEO and Director, Towner Eastbourne, said: “We are delighted that planning
has been granted on this significant project for Eastbourne and more broadly for arts, tourism
and culture. It will allow us to deliver an ambitious and sustainable artistic and educational
programme situated in – and around – the nineteenth century dairy farm set in the stunning
and unique landscape of the South Downs National Park. Our vision is to change lives
through high quality creative and cultural experiences that raise aspirations, change career
directions and improve life outcomes as well as skills and training that enables young people
to pursue careers in the creative industries, tourism and leisure. ”
Councillor Stephen Holt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: “This is clearly
an important and most significant step forward in our plans to develop Black Robin Farm.
We are on a journey that will see the creation of a hugely exciting new venue within the
South Downs National Park, one that will capture the imagination of people from far and
wide. I must thank all those who have played a role in this landmark project so far and look
forward with immense anticipation to what is still to come. Eastbourne Borough Council
and Towner Eastbourne will now work with key stakeholders and communities to deliver the
project’s vision over the next four years. This will allow the local communities to celebrate
Eastbourne’s identity, increasing civic pride and raising aspirations, and will convey the
unique heritage of the Downland to visitors.”
Fergus Feilden, Director, Feilden Fowles, said: “The project will deliver unprecedented
equal access to the national park whilst preserving and enhancing the beauty and ecology of
the site’s remarkable 19th century agricultural Downland setting. It will bring over 2000m2
of existing agricultural fabric back into new use, using a palette of natural materials such as
reclaimed brick, lime mortar, flint. The new-build gallery reflects the folds of the South Downs
and will use flint and chalk excavated from the site. Targeting operational net zero by 2030,
the design aims to have minimal impact on the environment drawing visitors into the South
Downs and delivering world class arts and cultural experiences.”
In partnership with East Sussex College Group, Towner will deliver qualifications and
skills training for young adults to support career development in the creative, leisure and
tourism sectors. It will provide artist opportunities through commissions, residencies,
showcasing and workspace. With the Coastal Schools Partnership and community
partners, it will also deliver creative activities and teacher Continuing Professional
Development encompassing natural materials, nature, ecology and food production for
children and young people to grow confidence, build skills and improve life outcomes.
The Black Robin Farm project will demonstrate leadership in the environmental
sustainability of new art and culture projects. It aims to achieve Building Research
Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) excellence status.