Eastbourne votes to keep downland farms

Council bosses have released the statistics after residents chose overwhelmingly to cut services rather than sell the downland farms.

Monday, 6th March 2017, 4:57 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:07 am
Demonstrators in Eastbourne protesting against the proposed sale of 3,000 acres of downland (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-170227-114230008

The council received a total of 4,373 opinion slips back from residents who were asked in the Eastbourne Review to choose between the council selling 3,000 acres of downland farms or cutting public services.

A total of 75 per cent of valid polls received (2,632) voted in favour of service cuts, while 25 per cent (858) voted to sell the farms.

Meanwhile, 883 polls received were rejected, due largely to multiple number of polls being submitted by individuals on behalf of other names (716).

Other reasons for rejection included: failing to select either option (110); failing to provide name or contact details (12); duplicates (11); and returning from outside the borough (34).

Eastbourne Borough Council said it had issued 47,500 Reviews, which means the turnout for voters was 9.2 per cent. Compared to the total electorate of the area (73,823), 5.9 per cent responded.

Independent Standards Member Neal Robinson and Statutory Monitoring Officer Peter Finnis managed the count, which was done by council officers, and observed by Liz Walke.

The poll in the Review had been widely criticised, with a number of people saying they had not received a copy and others arguing the deadline did not give enough time for residents to return it.

Activists and Conservative councillors also argued the poll was one-sided and, with its choice between farms or public service cuts, was ‘blackmailing’ residents.

Sally Boys, of Keep Our Downs Public, said, “Eastbourne people have shown that we can see through the spin and unfair choice offered by the so-called ‘consultation’ in the Eastbourne Review.

“Above all, we have shown that the people of Eastbourne love and cherish their downs and will fight to protect them. The downland belongs to us all.

“Its benefits are many and we have yet to scratch the surface of what positive, imaginative management can bring for the town, the council tax payer, wildlife, visitors and every Eastbourne resident.”

Andrew Durling, of Eastbourne Friends of the Earth, said, “Fantastic news! The unequivocal abandonment by Eastbourne Borough Council of plans to sell the downland farms is wonderful, and is a real tribute to people power.

“This shows how much the South Downs is loved by so many people and how important the protection of them is to the people of Eastbourne and beyond.”