In seeking to sell the downland farms the council will be losing control of more than one third (in acreage) of the entire borough.
The council can rightly argue that the planning authority and the South Downs National Park Authority will, even after the sales, be able to prevent unsuitable uses or developments; but as landowners the council can exercise far wider controls.
It is 50 years and more since the council, as my employers, required me to draft the farm leases.
These leases, and surely the present leases, sought good standards of agriculture and husbandry, the proper maintenance of buildings, the care of hedgerows and fences, the clearing of public footpaths, and generally enabled the council to manage the farms more effectively than will be possible through the planners of the National Park Authority.
The Eastbourne Corporation Act, 1926 enabled a far-sighted council to purchase downlands ‘for preserving the amenities of the borough and its neighbours’. Whilst negotiations for the sales may at present be with tenant farmers, the value of the farms will lead inevitably to them being owned by financial institutions or foreign oligarchs.
What will be their aims? The risks must be that future owners will seek to find maximum revenues through their ownerships of the downland farms and the aims of those who promoted the 1926 Act will be frustrated.
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