Eastbourne’s commerce bosses have publicly supported the sale of the downland farms.
In a statement, Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce boss Christina Ewbank said the organisation was satisfied with council assurances that existing and proposed new covenants will protect the downland from any development.
But the chamber has urged residents to make their views known in the Eastbourne Review which has been delivered to thousands of homes across the borough asking people to make a choice between cuts to frontline services in the face of government funding cuts to local authorities or sell the downland farms to boost the council’s coffers by between £15 and £30 million.
Christina Ewbank said, “The council must continue to seek alternative ways of generating income to make improvements but this is not a case of selling off the family silver; it is not a one off financial windfall.
“The money raised from the sale of the downland farms will be used to generate increased income to fund front line services for the foreseeable future.
“However, if we are to remain a premier destination for visitors, we also need to protect the beautiful countryside around Eastbourne, particularly in the South Downs National Park.
“Therefore, it is our wish this sale may only take place if the farmland is protected from development in the future.
“We are satisfied by the council’s assurances that existing and proposed new covenants and restrictions will protect the land from development.
“We would not want to see housing, commercial development, caravans or wind farms on this land and we are satisfied from the Eastbourne Review that this could not happen, now or in the future.
“It should be noted almost 90 per cent of the South Downs farmlands is already in private hands.
“Having said that we believe it is right and fitting every resident in Eastbourne be given the opportunity to express their opinion on either the sale of the Down Land Farms or other cost cutting measures.
“For this reason we are encouraging all our members in Eastbourne to vote. This is an important decision so it is appropriate the views of the public are taken into consideration and we believe the Eastbourne Review has brought this debate to a wider audience across the town.
“The chamber believes the residents of Eastbourne can now make an informed decision about this important proposal.”