'˜It should be a stand-alone decision': Eastbourne MP responds to council downland poll

Caroline Ansell has spoken out about Eastbourne Borough Council's poll on the sale of the downland farms.

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell

The council announced last week it is releasing a poll in its newsletter the Eastbourne Review, asking the public to choose between selling the farms or cutting public services.

The Eastbourne and Willingdon MP said, “Look out for you copy of the Eastbourne Review – due to land on your doormat this Monday.

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“It falls short of the referendum Conservative councillors have called for, and in pitching the farms against future funding for community groups, some have already called it ‘poor form’.

“It should be a stand-alone decision, but this is the council’s position.

Mrs Ansell added, “I do welcome that the council has set out its case, but it was a missed opportunity that the campaign group didn’t have the opportunity to contribute to it.”

“Nonetheless, the review is an opportunity for more local people to be involved in what would be a ‘forever’ decision.”

Mrs Ansell chaired a meeting between Eastbourne council leaders and campaigners against the sale on Friday (February 10).

Speaking to the Herald, she said, “It was a good meeting, it was constructive, and important concessions were made.

“There was a very frank exchange of opinion, and it was an opportunity for misconceptions to be challenged.

“The best thing was that we agreed we will meet again and, in the event of a sale, campaign groups will be in place to write new covenants.

“That says something about the exisiting covenants. From my own experience as a councillor, when I called on the council to honour covenants once it was said it wasn’t defensible.

“My understanding, though, is that the campaigners want to simply stop the sale. I respect that.

“There’s precedents where development has come in the past.”

Previouly the MP has called for a public consultation on the plans to sell the freehold of four farms, totalling just under 3,000 acres.

In the latest Eastbourne Review, the council asks the public to choose between the sale and cutting public services.

The services proposed to be cut include a ‘change in permanent plants and reduced grass cutting’ of the Carpet Gardens. Community grants will be slashed by half, households charged for green waste, and street cleaning cut by 25 per cent.

The poll should be returned freepost to the council by March 3.