Statement on sales of countryside sites

February 28, 2017

Trevor Beattie, Chief Executive for the South Downs National Park Authority has been involved in a series of meetings about Eastbourne Borough Council’s proposal to sell some of its downland farms. He says:

“The preservation of the downland in its current open, grazed condition is an important economic asset, quite apart from the indisputable landscape, recreational and environmental benefits it provides to local residents and visitors to the area. These farms are not just local assets, they are national legacies, now in a National Park.

“Countryside sites were secured for the people early last century by farsighted councils and campaigners who wanted to protect our landscapes and water supply in perpetuity. Eastbourne Borough Council’s original vision when they purchased the land in 1929 was that it would be ‘saved for ever from building or other exploitation.’*

“The informal poll in the latest edition of the council’s Eastbourne Review poses a confusing choice for residents between a capital sale of the downland and revenue cuts to services.

“We understand the financial pressures Local Authorities now face but the landscape is the main driver of the local economy that councils are trying to stimulate. Ownership by EBC safeguards this landscape.

“It is short-term thinking to put this timeless asset, which helps to attract investment, at risk for a one-off capital injection. We have therefore made our concerns clear and called for a rethink about these countryside sales.

“We continue to work behind the scenes to urge councils to consider their responsibilities. These include: safeguarding the landscape for future generations; maintaining public access in the face of predicted coastal erosion; the protection of historical features; the removal of permitted development rights on existing agricultural buildings; restrictions on certain types of agricultural use which would be inappropriate in this location; and a guarantee that any covenants and restrictions put in place to protect the land from damaging uses which might not be caught by the planning system can endure with the land if ownership changes.

“The long-term protection of our rare and precious landscapes, such as chalk grassland, is the highest possible priority for the National Park.”

*The Times, 29 October 1929