LETTER: Bold decision – and right one

The following letter has been sent to Councillor David Tutt, the Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council:

Following our letter to you (January 30) this is a positive follow-up to thank you for the bold decision you have taken to stop the sale of the Eastbourne downland estate farms.

Our network of 40 organisations with environmental interests in the South Downs National Park is relieved that you have come to this conclusion, influenced by the overwhelming feelings of your Eastbourne residents in the recent poll.

We understand the financial difficulties and pressure to deliver public services that you are under, and recognise that this has no easy solutions.

However, we strongly believed that selling the downland asset was not the right answer.

Now you have stopped the sales you will be looking forward to how best manage the downland estate and we re-emphasise the offer we made in our previous letter: “We will be more than happy to work with you, in partnership, to maximise the benefits from public land ownership.”

A strong partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority, Water Company, key organisations and local interests can be galvanised here.

The estate is an invaluable public asset for the people of Eastbourne, for the local area and visitors from further afield.

Your tenant farmers are making a valuable contribution. Their sensitive land management in food-growing helps deliver clean drinking water, wildlife and natural capital, along with its value for cultural heritage, public access, recreation and tourism and increasing the sustainability of the local economy in the face of climate change.

With ownership and management in your control, as the publicly-accountable local authority for Eastbourne, much can be achieved. The range of ecosystem services that the Eastbourne downland generates offers great opportunity, particularly if the UK’s post-Brexit farming policy results in more financial support for the maintenance of such services.

Furthermore, your Downland Management Plan provides a useful base to affirm a renewed vision to develop a more comprehensive action plan for the downs in harmony with local people while also recognising the national significance of this iconic landscape.

DR TONY WHITBREAD

Chairman, South Downs Network