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Letter: Sale of lands must incorporate convenants

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 09:34

Letter: South Downs Society to Councillor Tutt, Eastbourne Borough Council

Dear Councillor Tutt

I am writing on behalf of the chair of this Society, Robert Cheesman. Thank you for the opportunity you and Robert Cottrill afforded to our chair, to me and to Kia Trainor of CPRE Sussex to meet to discuss the above.

You explained to us the financial situation facing the Borough Council and the wish to generate funds from the sale of the majority of its landholding in the downs.

As you will be aware, this Society is the national park society for the South Downs National Park. The Society has nearly 2,000 members and our focus is the conservation and enhancement of the special qualities of the national park and their quiet enjoyment.

We have expressed to you the Society's strong concern about the plan to dispose of the Council owned farms in the national park, acquired for the benefit of the town. While recognising the protection afforded by the planning powers of the national park authority and the statutory rights of way and access land, we believe that only ownership by the Council or some other body with an environmental or recreation focus can safeguard those special qualities. We would urge the Council to consider very carefully whether it has identified the full economic, social and environmental capital and potential of its landholding before pursuing disposal. The Society is aware of ideas that have been put forward for generating additional income from the properties without disposal which would reflect the statutory purposes of the national park. We would be very happy to share these with you.

If, nevertheless, the Council were to proceed with its plan to sell off the land, we would urge that serious consideration be given to incorporating into any sale a number of covenants or conditions which would serve to mitigate against the threat to landscape, wildlife and public enjoyment:

  • Removal of permitted development rights in respect of specified existing agricultural buildings, thereby improving the prospect of SDNPA controlling future development
  • Covenants to promote access, for example through mapping permissive paths and incorporating into sale documents a maintenance schedule for these and for the public rights of way
  • Provision for maintaining public access in the face of predicted coastal erosion
  • Identification of opportunities for landscape conservation to which purchasers would be expected to commit
  • Identification of historic features to be protected, interpreted and maintained
  • Covenants made in favour of the National Trust, if they are willing: these can serve as a way of securing future public benefit
  • Restrictions on certain types of agricultural use which would be inappropriate in this location, for example pig rearing – to be identified through landscape character assessment
  • Creation of a whole estate plan or whole farm plans
  • Prevention of “sell on” within a defined timescale; guarantee that any covenants and restrictions endure with the land if ownership changes

Such measures would go far to reassure Eastbourne residents and visitors of future protection for the area’s special qualities. We would be happy to discuss these with you, and we would be very interested to hear what restrictions and covenants may already be attached to the land.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Steve Ankers

Policy Officer, South Downs Society

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