MP to hold meeting with council chief over downland sale

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MP Caroline Ansell is meeting with the leader of Eastbourne council to discuss the sale of four downland farms.

Eastbourne Borough Council announced last year it is selling the farms – a total of 2,900 acres – to raise millions for projects across the town, and will retain 1,000 acres of open downland including Beachy Head.

But the announcement has been met with opposition from the public, environmental groups and South Downs National Park Authority, with concerns the land and wildlife cannot be protected once it is sold.

Mrs Ansell said, “I met with members of the Keep Our Downs Public campaign this week to discuss their concerns over the planned sale of these assets and it’s clear there is mounting pressure for the council to ask residents what they think about the idea.

“I have previously called for a consultation on the proposals and I very much hope the council will consider this is now the best way forward.

“The council leader David Tutt has agreed to meet with myself and the campaigners towards the end of this month and I welcome this move.

“As I have already stated, I do not criticise Eastbourne Borough Council for looking at the sale of the farms because it wants to raise funds, but it must have the support of local people because this is an irreversible decision.

“There are concerns over future protections of the land and planning issues, and many people still need to be satisfied this is a good idea.”

The council recently released a list of frequently asked questions on the issue, available at www.eastbourne.gov.uk/residents/leisure-and-events/parks/trees-and-downland/downland/downland-working-farms-proposal/

A petition calling for the halt of the sale has so far gained more than 6,000 signatures and is available at www.actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-the-sell-off-of-eastbournes-public-downland