Environmental lawyer quits Lib Dems in protest against Eastbourne farms sale

Simon Boyle with councillor Robert Smart at the march on Saturday. Photo Jon Rigby SUS-170103-171332001
Simon Boyle with councillor Robert Smart at the march on Saturday. Photo Jon Rigby SUS-170103-171332001
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An environmental lawyer has resigned from the Liberal Democrats over Eastbourne Borough Council’s proposed sale of the freehold of four downland farms.

Simon Boyle, who has been an outspoken campaigner against the sale, says he has now joined the Conservative Party as he believes the group is standing up for the environment.

He said, “All my life I have voted Lib Dem, but I shall never do so again.

“I thought that the Lib Dems were the party who stood up for the environment. How very wrong I was!

“I shall be joining the Conservatives who have tried their best to fight the sale of the downland farms.”

Mr Boyle is concerned about irreparable damage to the town’s water supply.

He argues that if the use of the land changes to arable farming, pesticides would be used which contain the carcinogenic chemical metaldehyde.

He said, “It only needs a tiny amount there, you can’t get it out and it lasts decades.

“The council can’t stop it changing from sheep farming, it’s not a planning issue.”

Mr Boyle argued that, rather than give the option of cuts to public services or risking the farms, the council should rethink spending on ambitious capital projects like Devonshire Park.

He said, “Why risk it? Your health and your kids’ health should be the priority.

“It’s about prioritising what matters. Safe drinking water above tennis.”

Regarding the wildlife, he added, “To the expert naturalist the Sussex downland is as exotic and diverse as the Brazilian rainforest, it is just that it is in miniature.

“Dr Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, recently told me the chalk grass grassland is as rich as you can get, with 40 species of plant per square metre, sometimes more.

“There is hardly anywhere on the planet where you get that amount of diversity in such a small area.

“It’s one of the most precious habitats we have.

“Once they sell it they have no control. Covenants do not provide protection, and the Chatsworth and Gildredge Estates will be offered the land without any restrictions.

“Cllr David Tutt and the other Lib Dem councillors have made a lot about the covenants: how they will safeguard the downland.

“However, my view is that they will provide little, if any, protection.”

When asked if he thought the Conservative group were jumping on the bandwagon, Mr Boyle disagreed, saying he believes the matter is a genuine concern to opposition councillors.

Mr Boyle also reflected on the poll provided in the latest Eastbourne Review.

He said, “The ‘sham’ poll that the Liberal Democrat council has offered to the people of Eastbourne has been condemned by the public, the press, the Labour Party, the Green Party, the Conservative councillors and our MP.

“The time for sending in polls ends on Friday (March 3). We have told everyone that they need to select the option for the cuts however absurd that is, and of course it is not really necessary at all.

“There is plenty of money and the council does not need to spend £70 million on these ‘luxury items’.

“Let’s hope the opinion poll goes the right way and we can save the downland for future generations and for its amazing and unique landscape.”

To view the latest Eastbourne Review go to www.eastbourne.gov.uk/news/eastbourne-review