Downland farms could be saved by alternative Devonshire Park funding, say campaigners

Campaigners protesting the council sale of the downland farms SUS-170302-141059001
Campaigners protesting the council sale of the downland farms SUS-170302-141059001

News that Devonshire Park is to receive £5m in funding shows that Eastbourne Borough Council could find alternatives to the sale of the downland farms, say campaigners.

Members of Keep Our Downs Public have welcomed the Government grant and say the council’s efforts to secure funding for this commercial leisure facility shows that alternative sources of funding for regeneration projects can be found.

The campaign has organised meetings and protests against the council’s sale of just under 3,000 acres of farmed downland.

Sally Boys, of Meads, said, “We urge the council to renew its efforts to seek alternative funding so that our precious Eastbourne downland is retained in public ownership.

“With several grant sources and cheap public borrowing with interest rates so low, the council has a number of ways to fund the revamp.

“It can also raise income from entry fees to Devonshire Park.

“Why should they subsidise commercial development by selling off our downs?”

Phil Belden, of Sussex Wildlife Trust, said, “The Eastbourne downland is a priceless public asset, rich in wildlife and cultural heritage, and provides many benefits, such as tourism, iconic views, fresh air, clean water, health and well-being.

“If sold on the open market, all this is at great risk of being damaged, lost and destroyed.”

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

But the decision has faced strong opposition from residents, campaigners, and organisations such as the Eastbourne Society, East Sussex Ramblers, Friends of the Earth, The South Downs Society, Sussex CPRE, and Sussex Wildlife Trust.