Four farms on the South Downs are to be sold off in a bid to boost cash reserves.
Black Robin Farm, Bullock Down Farm, Cornish Farm and Chalk Farm will be sold in a deal which could bring millions of pounds in to council coffers, which could in turn pay for new projects and reinvesting in the downland.
Eastbourne Borough Council says the freeholds of the farms will initially be offered for sale to the current leaseholders who farm the land and other prominent landowners, such as the Gilbert-Davis and Duke of Devonshire estates, before being put on the open market.
The council has quashed fears the sale could lead to unwanted development as the downland it owns is part of the South Downs National Park, which is protected.
The authority also says footpaths and rights of ways on the downland farms will not be affected.
Eastbourne borough councillor, David Tutt, said he hoped the sales would save the council money in the long term and and generate a capital receipt that can be reinvested in the local economy.
He said, “We are not expecting the farmers to leave the farms. We want them to continue farming.
“It is only the freeholds which are for sale not the leases.”
Specialist land agents Strutt & Parker is currently consulting with all parties that hold rights in the downland owned by the council.
A SDNPA spokesperson said: “Robust planning framework and national park legislation governing the use of the downland remains exactly the same regardless of any future change in land ownership.
“If the proposed sale of the farmland owned by Eastbourne Borough Council takes place, the main use of the land, farming, will not change as a result of any sale.
“The council is a close working partner of the South Downs National Park Authority and we are delighted that, if the sale is successful, the council plans to invest some of the proceeds in enhancing the visitor experience on the downland every year.”
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