by Phil Belden
Conservation Advisor to the Sussex Wildlife Trust
A heart-warming end to a sad saga – Eastbourne Borough Council has responded to the wishes of the people and decided not to sell the Eastbourne downland.
Whilst recognising the financial plight of our local councils, selling off the crown jewels is not the answer. Underneath that green cover is the chalk downland, the vital aquifer holding our drinking water supply, its quality dependent on the sensitive farming management in the growing of our food. This in turn helps conserve our wildlife habitats, including internationally rare chalk grassland, with its rich diversity of flora and fauna, epitomised by the many different orchids and herbs, butterflies and birds. As public land, the opportunities to enjoy all this, the quality access and accessibility can be appreciated. Publicly accountable control is crucial if we are to ensure we have an influence on our precious downland and the way it is looked after.
The HUGE thanks goes to you – everyone who responded and took action to “Save Our Downs” – turning out on cold wintry days for demos and rallies, writing to local councillors and, of course, doing that terrible poll. Presenting such a biased poll was unfortunate, but local residents saw through the council’s ruse and voted by a massive majority not to sell the downland crown jewels – an impressive 75% majority!
We now need to secure the long-term protection and conservation of the Eastbourne downland so that this never happens again, so that we can be assured that the true value of our downland is understood, respected and cherished. We have a start, as a Downland Management Plan already exists, created by an enlightened council administration in the 1980s. This provides a good foundation for the council to work from, in partnership with the many experts and organisations keen to help now that the threat of selling off the downland has been removed.
Thank you for your support.
Downland Management Plan - www.eastbourne.gov.uk/_resources/assets/inline/full/0/206994.pdf