A new policy for managing countryside sites will not see East Sussex beauty spots such as Seven Sisters sold off to private companies.
The county council’s new countryside access strategy was approved this week and could see not-for-profit organisations bid to run any of the eight sites across the county.
Godfrey Daniel, a Labour county councillor from Hastings, argued that the changes would keep locations open to the public and allow them to be maintained at a lower cost to the public purse, adding: “We are not talking about McDonald’s taking over Seven Sisters Country Park.”
The other seven sites are Camber Sand Dunes near Rye, Ditchling Common, Eastbourne’s Shinewater Park, Chailey Common, Ouse Estuary Nature Park, Riverside Park, and Weir Wood Local Nature Reserve.
Meanwhile the council will continue to manage and maintain public rights of way and two of its countryside sites - the Cuckoo Trail and the Forest Way Country Park.
Nick Bennett (Con, Arlington, East Hoathly and Hellingly), lead member for transport and environment, said: “I want to assure residents that we will only be talking to organisations which are experienced in conservation and community involvement.
“Whatever the outcome of our discussions these sites, which are protected public spaces, will remain open for residents and visitors to our county to enjoy.”
He added: “Approval of the countryside sites strategy by cabinet means officers can now begin discussions with interested parties, which include National Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust and South Downs National Park Authority.”
The strategy was approved by the cabinet on Tuesday (June 27).
Any changes to the management of each of the council’s countryside sites will be subject to consultation.
Meanwhile Barry Taylor (Con, Eastbourne - Meads), who helped scrutinise the strategy, thought there were some ‘very good organisations’ who might be able to access funding the county council would not be able to secure.
Alan Shuttleworth (LDem, Eastbourne - Langney), whose division includes part of Shinewater Park, called for members to be kept informed about discussions on specific sites in their areas.
The county council received 386 responses to the Countryside Access Strategy survey and consultation.
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