Eastbourne council chief to have meeting with South Downs campaigners

The demonstration outside the town hall last week SUS-161121-143952001
The demonstration outside the town hall last week SUS-161121-143952001

The leader of Eastbourne Borough Council will attend a meeting with residents protesting against the council sell-off of South Downs land tomorrow (Tuesday).

Councillor David Tutt has said he will discuss the issue in a meeting at Eastbourne Town Hall from 6.45pm.

This was arranged after more than 100 concerned locals and campaigners held a demonstration last week outside the Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) meeting, against council plans to sell four downland farms to boost cash reserves.

It was organised by Eastbourne Friends of the Earth (FOE) which believes that selling the farms will set a precedent that could lead to the eventual sale of the rest of the South Downs.

On the Facebook page, it said, “At the meeting, we in Eastbourne Friends of the Earth will reiterate our opposition to the current sale of the four farms on the Eastbourne Downland Estate, but we are willing to help explore all options for creating a positive vision for the development and maintenance of the estate once the sale has been cancelled.

“We also see this first discussion with David Tutt as simply the first step in a more thorough, ongoing public consultation process about the future of the estate that should have started many months ago.

“The secrecy shrouding the sale and the misleading statements put out about it by the council have been most unhelpful.

“But if the discussion on Tuesday with David Tutt is positive and constructive, we look forward to co-operating with the council in building a future for the Eastbourne Downs that keeps them firmly in public hands and which is beneficial for all who live and work in or near the Downs, and who visit the area as tourists.”

The campaigners have set up a Facebook group called Keep Our Downs Public.

EBC announced earlier this year that Black Robin Farm, Bullock Down Farm, Cornish Farm and Chalk Farm will be sold in a deal which could bring millions of pounds into council coffers.

The council says the freeholds of the farms will initially be offered for sale to the current leaseholders who farm the land and other prominent landowners such as the Gilbert-Davis and Duke of Devonshire Estates before being put on the open market.

The farmers can either buy the farms, stay on or leave but the council says there are no plans to offer cash alternatives to vacate the properties.

The council says it has quashed fears the sale could lead to unwanted development as the downland it owns is part of the South Downs National Park which is protected.

The authority also says footpaths and rights of ways on the downland farms will not be affected.

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