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.