Downland sell-off: Eastbourne Borough Council comes up with ‘alternative facts’

Here is Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth’s latest press release issued on 24th January 2017:

Council’s ‘answers’ to downland sell-off sparks outrage and raises more questions

The publication in last week’s Eastbourne Herald of answers compiled by Eastbourne Borough Council to some of the many questions it has received regarding the intended sale of Eastbourne’s downland has sparked outrage amongst many campaigners and community groups in Eastbourne.

The answers make clear that the council still intends to sell the downland despite the growing opposition by local residents and community groups to the sell-off. Eastbourne Friends of the Earth, Council for the Protection of Rural England, South Downs Society, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Open Spaces Society, Eastbourne Society, Meads Community Association, and the South Downs National Park Authority have all advised the council that the best way to protect and enhance the downland is for the council to retain it in public ownership, respecting the commitment the town gave in 1926 to keep the downland for the public benefit “in perpetuity”.

Andrew Durling, Co-ordinator of Eastbourne Friends of the Earth, says:

“Most of these so-called answers are misleading, evasive, ill-informed, or just plain wrong. Indeed, they’re just ‘alternative facts’ created to confuse the public. Also, the really big questions have been dodged, indicating that the council has much to hide about the sell-off, and that it can’t provide any valid answers anyway. The spin, lack of transparency, and deception employed by the council in this sell-off shows a lack of respect for the Eastbourne public and undermines local democracy. The council must halt the sell-off immediately and enter into a genuine debate with the public about how best to guarantee the future public ownership of this community asset much loved by people around the world for its wildlife, its natural beauty, and its heritage”.

The petition against the sell-off has now gained more than 6,700 signatures, and is supported by Chris Packham, the naturalist and TV celebrity.

Eastbourne Friends of the Earth will continue to liaise with all the other groups campaigning against the sell-off, and with the Keep Our Downs Public campaign that has, in the last few days, been instrumental in halting the latest attempt by Brighton & Hove Council to sell off more of its public downland.


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