The Green Group of Councillors have successfully intervened to suspend the sale of land in the Downland estate.
The Greens, alongside campaigners, called for a suspension of the proposed sale in the council’s natural Downland estate. This included land at Poynings and Plumpton Hill. Although most of this land is protected under national and environmental law, sites that had been identified for sale were branded ‘non-core assets’ and so were not subject to the same public scrutiny as other parts of the estate.
However, as a result of ongoing pressure from the Greens, council officers have now acknowledged that plans for disposal of the land should be brought to a halt.
“As soon as the detail on this was brought to our attention, we intervened and called for the sales to be suspended,” said Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty. “It is right that as a result of this pressure, proposed sales in areas of the Downland estate will be put on hold and hopefully shelved altogether.
“We are glad that the city council is talking to the Downland campaigners and sharing information with them about what is going on. We are now calling for much tighter scrutiny on any remaining proposals to sell land. We call on all Councillors to fully examine how we treat our incredibly important Downland- the most unique part of our city’s natural heritage.”
The Green group of Councillors are now seeking to amend the council’s policies over the disposal of land in the area, and will make proposals to further protect sites at the next meeting of the Policy, Resources and Growth Committee.
Councillor Ollie Sykes comments: “As Councillors we must be prepared to take steps to preserve this vital land, and I welcome the news that current sales will be put on hold – there are lessons to be learned here. We will be working with colleagues across the council to increase protection of our estate, which not only provides our water, but is also unique for its biodiversity, heritage and landscape.”
 The council’s Asset Management policy determines the means by which land can be sold depending upon their classification as either ‘core’ or ‘non-core assets.’ The Greens will now be pushing for further clarity about the definition of ‘non-core assets’ at the upcoming Policy, Resources and Growth committee, in order to reclassify all parts of the Downland estate as an asset where all sales are subject to full and proper elected member scrutiny.