Save Our Downs

28 February 2017 | Posted in land-disposals
Save Our Downs

By Phil Belden

The Eastbourne downland is a priceless jewel, acquired for the people of Eastbourne and enjoyed by millions of visitors, thanks to Parliament’s intervention in the 1920s. Indeed, in the minutes of the House of Lords at the time it was stated that the desire was “to secure for the public the free and open use of the Downs in perpetuity”. This was in response to the huge public outcry as East Dean and other parts of the South Downs were being developed by private interests. Our wonderful wildlife, rich cultural heritage and clean drinking water supply are all safeguarded by the current public ownership and sympathetic land management practices.

Eastbourne Borough Council holds this land, which should be protected "in perpetuity" - but they now want to sell it on the open market to the highest bidder. This will put it back into private hands and remove all public control. The threats to this land if sold are huge: from more intensive agriculture or viticulture, to commercial leisure development and more.

It’s time the council took notice of its people, to respect their views and stop peddling misinformation, myths and biased polls. This is not about selling off a piece of scruffy farmland (and what a terrible couple of photos of the same view in the Eastbourne Review!) It is about the council trying to find many millions of pounds to do up the commercial tennis facility at Devonshire Park – their solution: to flog off our downland.

How you can help

  • Sign the Eastbourne Downs petition to stop the sell-off
  • Write to Eastbourne Borough Council and Councillors to let them know how much you cherish the Downs and want it kept, as promised, in our public ownership, with well-controlled management to benefit wildlife, safeguard drinking water and access; and that we can hold Eastbourne Borough Council to account as our local democratic council. If sold, all this is put at great risk of damage and loss, with no opportunity for the people to influence what goes on in the future.


  • 28 Feb 2017 11:31:56

    Inspiring rally through the town last weekend, many thanks to all who attended. We now have national media concerned about the downland sales threat, behaviour of the council and future treats to our Eastbourne Downs – see excellent article in The Times 24/2. There’s also a piece in the Telegraph 25/2 and even the Daily Mail, which I read online.

  • Karl Nunweiler:

    28 Feb 2017 12:06:42

    Please hold back from the sale of The Eastbourne Downs. Places of this nature are not be yours to sell – they belong to everyone, and to posterity.

  • Janet Inglis:

    28 Feb 2017 12:39:48

    This is unbelievably shortsighted. It is exactly the sort of thing that the South Downs National Park was created to prevent.


    28 Feb 2017 12:57:43

    Back off

  • Lynn Roberta Mason:

    28 Feb 2017 13:08:49

    This is an appalling decision by the powers that be, what are they Nuts!
    Far better to use brownfield sites of which there are many than to lose this wonderful area to developers which I’m sure is their intention to sell this of too!!!

  • Stephen Cartwright:

    28 Feb 2017 13:10:59

    This is a huge area of land that I have loved walking over for years. If it is sold for development, the site will be degraded for ever. The proposal to sell the land is a shameful attempt to make some quick cash. The land already belongs to the public ‘in perpetuity’. It is not for Eastbourne Borough Council to flog off for others to profit from. I object most strongly to their proposal.

  • Mary Parker:

    28 Feb 2017 13:13:01

    There are rare elm trees growing there.

  • R Clifford:

    28 Feb 2017 13:14:14

    This land needs to remain in public ownership for the benefit of all.

  • William Cann.:

    28 Feb 2017 13:17:51

    What a terrible thing to do,there is not enough green spaces why ruin the countryside to get some finances .

  • Chris Hookham:

    28 Feb 2017 13:20:03

    I’ve signed the petition, written to my MP and asked questions of the Council officers. They would not confirm that all the current public access land was being retained – and says that Chalk Farm (currently public access under management agreement) would only have footpath access in future!

  • Chris Hookham:

    28 Feb 2017 13:23:53

    I’ve signed the petition, written to my MP and asked questions of the Council officers. They would not confirm that all the current public access land was being retained – and says that Chalk Farm (currently public access under management agreement) would only have footpath access in future!

  • Nicki Kent:

    28 Feb 2017 13:33:11

    I protest the plans to sell off this critically important land to private owners. The land should remain in public ownership and protected from potentially dangerous private interests. This land is a critical and much loved part of the South Downs.

  • alison:

    28 Feb 2017 13:39:41

    This can’t happen

  • Mary Newington:

    28 Feb 2017 13:39:58

    The sale of this land would be the most disgraceful short term thinking.
    How about our heritage? How about placing a value on wild areas and the wildlife they support which is irreplaceable?
    Please think again Council and maybe go up on the Downs to think it through. MN

  • Anne Shaw:

    28 Feb 2017 13:43:18

    This is incredible that they are even considering this, we would be letting future generations down if we allowed this sale.

  • Dot Earnshaw:

    28 Feb 2017 14:26:37

    We cherish the Downs so please leave them as they are for the general public as promised all those years ago for everyone to enjoy.

  • Ann Morriss:

    28 Feb 2017 14:28:48

    Please leave Downs alone, as the benefit to wildlife is required as it is getting less by the year, what with all the houses built.

  • M.J.Tuffley:

    28 Feb 2017 14:33:28

    Progress in out natural being that is our very existence may not be possible to HALT!!! But the thing could well be that natures Downland being priceless YES, and the survival of natures being should never be disturbed by some of mankind’s greed, mans greed ‘YOU CANNOT LOVE GODS CREATION AND MONEYS AT THE SAME TIME’ So a time is now to fight back. I am with you M.J.Tuffley

  • Alison Hahlo:

    28 Feb 2017 14:35:17

    This is an appalling attempt at theft of public property by Eastbourne Borough Council. This is an incredibly popular part of the South Downs area offering beautiful uncluttered views in all directions. This peaceful, inspiring place and wide open prospects would be utterly ruined by commercial or intensive agricultural development. This is part of our heritage to safeguard and pass on to future generations.

  • Paul Diss:

    28 Feb 2017 14:36:41

    This is an important area of the Downs and should remain in public ownership!

  • Clive monde:

    28 Feb 2017 14:47:17

    This is a negative short sighted action by someone with a lack of imagination – wake up and do the right thing sop the sale.

  • Carol Jones:

    28 Feb 2017 15:02:00

    If the land is sold to private buyers any covenants will be overturned in the years to come and any protective clauses will be lost. This is what happens eventually on deals like this. Could it be sold to the National Trust and/or the Woodland Trust (the latter less likely) at a lower than commercial rate? There is little left to save in crowded Sussex these days and the building pressures have led to massive overcrowding in these counties (East & West Sussex) and we need highly protected areas to make life liveable and to allow natural resources to flourish.

  • Christina Glover:

    28 Feb 2017 15:12:21

    It is crucial these bits of the Downs are not sold off to commercial developers and stays in public ownership. Stop this madness Eastbourne Borough Council just to make a commercial tennis facility

  • Sandra Ward:

    28 Feb 2017 15:29:25

    I and my friends and family love being able to walk freely across the Downs whenever we want to, whatever the weather. I don’t want this sale to go ahead under any circumstances, there are no reasons why it should be sold for short term gain. If you ran the finances more efficiently this wouldn’t even be a consideration. God knows what you do with all the money you receive from over priced parking charges in the centre of the town. Also the roads are dreadful, even when the potholes are filled in they are still not flat! This must not go ahead to whichever cronies you have had interest from. Think for once about the people living in Eastbourne and what our needs are.

  • Anna Hordyk:

    28 Feb 2017 15:43:17

    Do not sell off the Downs. it should be kept in public ownership for all for ever as once stated.

  • Zebrina Rendall:

    28 Feb 2017 15:47:08

    We need to keep our open spaces for our grandchildren to enjoy. As the population increases and areas of land are built on for houses the South Downs will need to be kept open for walks, health, well-being and pleasure.

  • Kay White:

    28 Feb 2017 16:18:07

    Remember that councils must safeguard the open spaces for all of the population in its remit. It is vital for humans and wildlife that spaces are preserved, and not sacrificed for short term gain. Future generations will thank you for standing firm against developments which favour a minority, and affect the wellbeing of the majority.

  • malka Bernard:

    28 Feb 2017 16:44:57

    Leave the south down intact, it is vitally important for the wildlife and nature, it will also safe-guard water. This is not helpful to the planet or future generations!

  • Wendy Veasey:

    28 Feb 2017 16:45:47

    “Free use of the Downs IN PERPETUITY” – this should be realised by the Borough Council.

  • Dr Jean O'Neill:

    28 Feb 2017 16:52:53

    This is an appalling idea and pays scant regard to the reason why we have the downland in the first place. Life is not all about making money – but creating and maintaining natural habitats alongside which we have always flourished. Furthermore it is a jewel in Eastbourne’s crown. Shame on you for even considering this sale.

  • Dr Jean O'Neill:

    28 Feb 2017 16:53:18

    This is an appalling idea and pays scant regard to the reason why we have the downland in the first place. Life is not all about making money – but creating and maintaining natural habitats alongside which we have always flourished. Furthermore it is a jewel in Eastbourne’s crown. Shame on you for even considering this sale.

  • Sharon Smith:

    28 Feb 2017 16:53:55

    Open space and free access to the countryside is a right that needs to be defended and enjoyed by all. Please hold on to Eastbourne Down and protect that right. Thank you

  • Mervyn Jeffery:

    28 Feb 2017 17:16:24

    A local and public asset. Do not sell the family silver

  • Linda Florence Hill:

    28 Feb 2017 17:18:15

    My understanding is that the South Downs is all part of the South Downs National Park and that this was all protected land for years to come for people to enjoy in their leisure time for walking or cycling the South Downs Way. How come it can now be sold off?

  • Jeremy Gray:

    28 Feb 2017 17:18:26

    What is the point of creating a National Park to protect this unique habitat if bits of genuine downland within it are sold off for development? Outrageous proposal.

  • Peter Wellby:

    28 Feb 2017 17:21:36

    If the Lords left it to the public ‘in perpetuity’, then surely there are legal grounds to block it.
    It should be made very clear to any councillors voting for this vandalism that there will be a targeted and massive effort to unseat them. I am happy to volunteer.

  • Ronald Caddy:

    28 Feb 2017 17:26:12

    How can the Council sell off this land when it was secured for the public by Parliament for perpetuity, it can not be lawful!!

  • Pauline Blackwell:

    28 Feb 2017 18:06:40

    This should be stopped at all costs Our countryside is precious and should be preserved
    for us andfuture generations and not used to line the
    pockers of councils and developers,

  • michael bernard:

    28 Feb 2017 18:14:47

    All of the Downs are precious and EBC should continue to protect them, for the benefit of people and for wildlife. We all need to keep in mind the context of tremendous pressures on open spaces and on wildlife, both locally, nationally and worldwide.

  • Caroline Robertson:

    28 Feb 2017 18:17:51

    I am horrified! The Downs are our newest national park and Eastbourne Council wants to destroy that last remaining wild part that abuts the town? See how “sympathetically” the other end of their town has been developed with thousands of unsuitable buildings crammed onto an unsuitable space with no extra public or road transport link provision? That end wasn’t as fabulous as the beautiful chalk downland at the Western end of town and look at the pig’s ear made of that. They cannot be allowed to destroy this unique and valuable habitat. Profit is NOT the be all and end all – and shouldn’t all the hundreds of empty buildings in Eastbourne be put to use first?

  • Robert Katon:

    28 Feb 2017 18:51:49

    I object most strongly to the sale of part of the South Downs by Eastbourne Brough Council. This land should be retained fo the benefit of this generation and for all in the future.

  • Jane North:

    28 Feb 2017 19:33:17

    Please don’t desecrate our beautiful land

  • Margaret Lintott:

    28 Feb 2017 20:22:55

    We must keep our downland not only for our public use now but also for future generations.

  • maggie riche:

    28 Feb 2017 21:25:13

    I can’t believe that Eastbourne B.C. want to sell off such a beautiful part of Britain that is admired World wide.
    How short sighted.. This must not be allowed.

  • Ivan Hurry:

    28 Feb 2017 21:46:31

    This is an absolutely crazy idea. Please listen to all the objectors and forget the whole plan.

  • David Phillips:

    28 Feb 2017 22:19:30

    Wholeheartedly agree this is shortsighted BUT with Local Authority budgets spiralling downwards ( over 20% reduction in Central grants over the last few years ) and increasing expectations from everyone on LA budgets this is unsurprising . Should we not be looking at getting this into National Park or similar ownership? Can we not be more proactive in getting fundraising started, HLF bids , Community Trust etc etc and seek to negotiate with EBC for first refusal if they decide – albeit against the tide of public opinion – to sell off anyway . Any landowner could – through ELS or Higher ELS subsidies get some income from conservation management of this incredible asset . We need to consider a Plan B here as well as trying to persuade Eastbourne to see sense .

  • Julie Norwood:

    01 Mar 2017 09:28:46

    Please save this land from being developed. We are losing green space and the wildlife and environment that is so important to our future.

  • Denis Blake:

    01 Mar 2017 10:29:39

    I object to the sale of this land by EBC

  • Mary Booth:

    01 Mar 2017 10:50:34

    Although I do not live in your area, I visit frequently when staying with my sister. All over the country too many of our wildlife areas and green spaces are being sold off by greedy profit makers. IT IS NOT RIGHT! Animals, mini beasts and birds cannot speak for themselves so we must do it for them. LEAVE OUR HOME ALONE!

  • Sandra. Holley:

    01 Mar 2017 12:08:55

    I believe we must save and protect this beautiful, unique countryside and keep it in public ownership. This open space is vital legacy for future generations and more important than any buildings the money can buy or support.

  • christine payne:

    01 Mar 2017 13:57:25

    I agree with all the previous comments wholeheartedly!! It is a shameful, thoughtless, short-sighted and selfish proposal. Only made by heartless people who will never be happy with their lives.

  • Jenny Smith:

    01 Mar 2017 14:37:00

    Disgusting, nothing but pure greed!! We wont have anything left of this once beautiful country at this rate.
    They should be ashamed!

  • John Harvey:

    01 Mar 2017 15:43:15

    This land was given to the people of Eastbourne in perpetuity so any attempt to sell it off is immoral. What’s more, any resulting development on this attractive downland landscape would hit the Eastbourne tourist trade badly, so cutting into the council’s finances even further.

  • Michael Black:

    03 Mar 2017 16:26:13

    I am working with others to play a part in preserving our Downland and if necessary to assist in mounting a legal challenge. While principal blame for this unthinking action of
    selling the farms must be that of Eastbourne’s Liberal-Democrat Councillors we should also question the motive and behaviour of Council officials in this sorry saga. What part did the Town Hall play in producing and printing the Eastbourne Review Survey? A thoroughly disreputable, sham consultation. What was their supposedly independent, impartial advice on handling this matter of such great importance to residents? Do these officials not bear responsibilty too?

  • Graham Preston:

    03 Mar 2017 17:00:55

    This land is the Nations not for sale or development but for the enjoyment of the public and the home of nature.

  • William Bradshaw:

    03 Mar 2017 19:34:10

    I have never been to Eastbourne but like every green space left in this country the greedy uncaring money grabbing profit makers should leave them alone because nature needs a home as well as we.

  • Emma Fayter:

    06 Mar 2017 16:22:55

    This land should be regarded as sacred and as belonging to the people. We cannot allow the council to destroy our environment, coastline and precious open spaces

  • Liz MacDonald:

    08 Mar 2017 18:02:01

    The heritage of the downs is for all to enjoy. These open green spaces provide a much needed oasis of clean air and precious areas for nature to thrive. They should not be allowed into the hands of private ownership.

  • Pamela Nickels:

    09 Mar 2017 16:58:49

    I can’t believe Eastbourne Borough Council want to sell off part of the South Downs – a beautiful part of the country. Please do not do this! A short-sighted action which could damage this wild area forever.

  • Anna Shepherd:

    10 Mar 2017 22:13:14

    Please do not rob our children, the Green and beautiful South Downs belongs to them and to their children, this Countries land mass is to small to take away our Green spaces. Our wild life are decreasing as we take precious land from them. Our ecosystem depends on the land for survival. Stop the sale immediately.

  • Elizabeth Hindson:

    13 Mar 2017 10:48:19

    People in public office seem to forget that they are there to do what the vast majority of people want them to do – not to please themselves! I am very angry that the Council can even consider selling off a portion of the Downs. Elizabeth Hindson

  • Jan Bird:

    01 Sep 2018 17:45:00

    Please do not sell. Once it is gone there will be no turning back. The natural countryside needs to be preserved for future generations and for the health and well being of everyone. All wildlife and plants and insects must have places that are goi g to be preserved for their survival and our survival ,

  • 09 Oct 2018 13:58:00

    Update: not fake news, but no real news.
    Following huge public protests and an overwhelming “NO, don’t sell” by local residents in response to Eastbourne Borough Council’s “referendum” in its newspaper, the Council withdrew its downland sale.
    That was early March 2017. Since then what’s happened? Not a lot is the short answer.
    The Eastbourne Downland Group (formed out of the Eastbourne Downs campaign) has been having irregular dialogue; the South Downs National Park Authority is helping the council put together a Whole Estate Plan, to highlight all the natural wonders that make up the downland, from which a master-plan can be progressed to ensure the better protection, conservation and enhancement of this precious jewel, one of the best loved and most popular parts of the South Downs, if not nationally.
    The council’s Downland Forum, made up of interested parties, providing advice to councillors and officers, is due to meet soon.
    Recently, the Walking Festival showcased the eastern Downs, with guided walks over both well-known and hidden gems, to great acclaim, with enthusiastic ideas for next year.
    Watch this space for news of our public Eastbourne Downs, but don’t hold your breath.

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