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ACT NOW: Eastbourne's Downland farms

Friday, 06 January 2017 14:08

Despite the outcry that Eastbourne Borough Council has faced since it announced its plan to sell off the majority of its landholding in the South Downs, this scheme is still being pursued. 

We have, alongside other opposition groups including The South Downs Society and Eastbourne Friends of the Earth, strongly urged Eastbourne Borough Council to step back and take time to reconsider.  PLEASE WRITE TO THE COUNCIL URGENTLY. There is not much time left. See below for details.

The land in question was acquired by the Council in 1926 for the benefit of the people of Eastbourne, and it needed a new Act of Parliament to make the purchase possible. In that very same decade CPRE, and the South Downs Society, came into being at a time when the future of the open downland was under great threat from the possibility of being turned into giant housing estates. Since that time we – and  Eastbourne Borough Council  – have worked hard to protect the downs from development and to conserve and improve the landscape, wildlife habitats and opportunities for public access and enjoyment. The creation of the South Downs National Park has been one of our greatest achievements – but it doesn’t mean that the job is done.

Eastbourne Borough Council have said that the land to be sold off will be protected by the planning powers of the new National Park Authority and the legislation covering public rights of way. But this won’t go far enough. There is no substitute for ownership. Once outside the Council’s control, the aims of enhancing the landscape and wildlife, of adding to the land currently available for open access, interpreting the archaeology and providing for visitor understanding and enjoyment will be much harder to achieve. Continuing coastal erosion, for example, will mean an increasing “squeeze” on the important strip of chalk grassland and, without ownership of the adjoining farmland, what are the prospects for re-establishing additional areas of this precious habitat?

While fully recognising and sympathising with Eastbourne’s need to generate funds, this proposal to sell land gifted to the people of Eastbourne can only be a short term “fix”.   If the land is sold, there will be no continuing stream of income from the farms to the Council’s coffers.  Other councils nearby, equally hard-pressed, have stepped back from similar action.  

We strongly feel that Eastbourne’s sense of place, its heritage, tourist economy and unique landscape will be put in jeopardy should the sale go through.   Only public ownership can guarantee the future of the Downland Farms.  

Make your voice heard by contacting Councillor David Tutt, Leader, Eastbourne Borough Council, 1 Grove Road, Eastbourne BN21 4UG, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), write  to your local newspaper and sign the petition at

Please encourage your friends and neighbours to join the campaign and join CPRE Sussex at

[UPDATED, Jan 26 2016]

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