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Eastbourne ends downland sell-off!

The Society has campaigned alongside local residents and other environmental groups against Eastbourne Borough Council’s plans to sell off the bulk of its landholding in the national park. While the planning powers of the National Park Authority would have remained in place, and rights of way would have been protected, there is no substitute for benign ownership if landscape, wildlife, recreation and cultural heritage are to be conserved and enhanced, so there is much to celebrate in the recent decision of the Borough Council to stop the sale. The Society has continually offered to collaborate with the council and others to realise the potential of the landholding and looks forward to engaging in that process.

The South Downs Network of environmental groups active across the national park — of which the Society is an active member and secretariat — has also offered its expertise. Below is the text of the Network’s letter to Eastbourne:

 

14th March 2017

Councillor Tutt       Leader, Eastbourne Borough Council

Dear Councillor Tutt

Following our letter to you (30th January 2017) this is a positive follow-up to thank you for the bold decision you have taken to stop the sale of the Eastbourne downland estate farms. Our network of 40 organisations with environmental interests in the South Downs National Park is relieved that you have come to this conclusion, influenced by the overwhelming feelings of your Eastbourne residents in the recent poll.

We understand the financial difficulties and pressure to deliver public services that you are under, and recognise that this has no easy solutions. However, we strongly believed that selling the downland asset was not the right answer. Now you have stopped the sales you will be looking forward to how best to manage the downland estate and we re-emphasise the offer we made in our previous letter: “we will be more than happy to work with you, in partnership, to maximise the benefits from public land ownership”.

A strong partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority, Water Company, key organisations and local interests can be galvanised here. The estate is an invaluable public asset for the people of Eastbourne, for the local area and visitors from further afield. Your tenant farmers are making a valuable contribution. Their sensitive land management in food-growing helps deliver clean drinking water, wildlife and natural capital, along with its value for cultural heritage, public access, recreation and tourism and increasing the sustainability of the local economy in the face of climate change. With ownership and management in your control, as the publicly-accountable local authority for Eastbourne, much can be achieved.

The range of ecosystem services that the Eastbourne downland generates offers great opportunity, particularly if the UK’s post-Brexit farming policy results in more financial support for the maintenance of such services. Furthermore, your Downland Management Plan provides a useful base to affirm a renewed vision to develop a more comprehensive action plan for the Downs in harmony with local people while also recognising the national significance of this iconic landscape.

Yours sincerely

Dr Tony Whitbread, Chairman, South Downs Network

Cc Mr R Cottrill, Chief Executive, Eastbourne Borough Council

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It’s official! Brighton and Lewes Downs is a World Biosphere site.

After six years’ work by local partners including the South Downs Society, the city of Brighton and Hove, the town of Lewes, all the downland between the rivers Adur and Ouse, the coastal strip as far east as Newhaven, and the adjacent inshore waters, have been designated as the first new World Biosphere site in the UK for 40 years in recognition of its “world class environment”.

It is the first such site in the south east of England and one of only a few which includes a major urban area. The Brighton and Lewes Downs joins a network of over 600 designated Biosphere sites in more than 100 countries around the world.

The accolade is a reflection not only of the current quality of the local environment but also of the achievements, aims and commitment of the local community in looking after that environment. While the designation does not of itself necessarily bring extra funding for environmental work in the area, it should act as a beacon and encouragement for greater effort and vigilance. The South Downs Society will continue to play its part in conserving and enhancing the landscape of the national park for quiet enjoyment.

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Just what is the role of the rural estate?

Come to St John’s Church Centre, Rowlands Castle on Friday 12 April to discover the answer. At the turn of the 21st century the landscape, the economy and the socio-economics of the South Downs was defined to a large degree by the rural estates. James Cooper, Director of the Stansted Park Foundation will be talking on the impact such estates have had on our past, present and future.

The South Downs Society – your National Park Society – will be presenting this event which is sponsored by the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust. Starting at 7 p.m., when refreshments will be served, you will gain a valuable insight to the management of the countryside we are so privileged to enjoy.

Tickets, just £5 each to include light refreshments, can be purchased in advance from either Robert Self (02392 484412) or Penny Murray (02392 486007) and the South Downs Society, 01798 875073. Alternatively Rowlands Castle Parish Clerk has tickets available from the Parish Council office. 25 March 2013