OUT IN THE FIELD: Downland farmers need their lives back

End of an era as The Gildredge pub is demolished to make way for the new Arndale Centre extension
End of an era as The Gildredge pub is demolished to make way for the new Arndale Centre extension

As the deadline looms today for people to have their say over whether the council should sell the downland farms or not and campaigners for and against shout their case from the rooftops, there is one group of people who have kept a dignified silence even though any potential sale will effect them the most – that is the farmers themselves.

Many of them have spent most of their lives there tending the land and whose lives, I can only imagine, have been hellish since news first broke that their homes and futures were in the public spotlight. The farmers themselves cannot comment on the issue but I would imagine they want the whole thing decided upon once and for all so they can get on with their lives and their livelihoods.

Close of play today (Friday) is the cut off point for people to have their say on whether they want the downland farms sold or face cuts to frontline services via the poll in the Eastbourne Review and as the Herald went to press yesterday lunchtime some 1,600 responses had been received at the council offices.

David Tutt has already nailed his colours to the mast and said he will follow the results of the poll when the cabinet committee of six councillors makes a final decision on March 22. But bearing in mind that the Eastbourne Review was delivered to more than 40,000 homes across the borough, making a decision about the sale based on what possibly around five per cent of the Eastbourne population thinks one way or another is hardly the most astute.

In my humble opinion this whole issue of the potential sale of the downland farm has been a right dog’s dinner from start to finish with political mud slinging, misinformation and name calling.

Added to that many people may be unaware the county council elections are just around the corner in May this year and much of debate over the sale has turned into an election campaign issue instead of what is really right for the town, its people and the downland farms. If you didn’t receive your copy of the Review, or even if you did, you can have your say on page 21 of the Herald.

Finally we can see the shape of the new Arndale Centre extension take shape and this week demolition began on The Gildredge pub which will become a new entrance to the centre opposite the railway station. What our picture doesn’t show though is that now that the windows have been removed, there are some marvellous murals of Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam on the walls of one of the upper rooms.

Just as we finish mourning the loss of that great Eastbourne shop Banana Tree, it would seem the site is to have a new lease of life. Painting on the exterior has begun and a contractor tells me it will open soon as a clothes shop.

Three well-known Eastbournians have passed away this year. Former Eastbourne CID detective Ray Wake died last month along with businessman Graham Meyer, who owned various pubs and firms, and popular ex-newsagent Bob Buchanan. RIP gents.