Eastbourne Borough Council has been accused of blackmail over its poll on whether to sell the downland farms or cut public services.
The poll, released this week in the Eastbourne Review, has been labelled a “sham” by campaigners from the Keep Our Downs Public Campaign.
Protesters argue it is “biased”, does not give enough time for people to return it, and is “deliberately using scaremongering tactics” by threatening cuts.
MP Caroline Ansell said the Review should have given the campaigners’ side to the argument, and pinning the sale against community funding is “emotive”.
Meanwhile, the Conservative group is renewing its call for a referendum on the sale.
Simon Boyle, environmental lawyer in Keep Our Downs Public, said, “What the council has produced is completely biased without any balance and is in breach of the Aarhus Convention which requires a ‘transparent and fair framework’.
“This so-called consultation has absolutely no legitimacy. It is frankly an embarrassment to the council. The people of Eastbourne deserve much better. They are deliberately using scaremongering tactics by saying that it is a choice between the downs or vital public services.”
A spokesperson from the council said, “The council strongly refutes this suggestion. It has clearly set out what it is proposing to do, and has explained the wider context in articulating why it is being proposed.
“The full information was placed on the council website in December and is now repeated in the Review. The public have been invited to submit comments and questions online or via traditional mail.
“A final decision on this matter will not be made until summer at the earliest which means this consultation process will have been in place for several months.”