Green Councillors have rejected the Council’s recommendation to push ahead with planned sales of sites on the Downland Estate.
Sites at Plumpton Hill and Poynings came under scrutiny back in December, when the Green Group successfully halted plans to sell the land and requested a report into the protection of the site.
However at a meeting of Policy, Resources and Growth Committee yesterday, both Green and Conservative Councillors expressed concerns that the Labour leadership were keen to push ahead with the sale plans, despite public protest over the environmental and cultural significance of the land. Plans to progress with the sales are now on hold following a joint amendment from both the Conservative and Green group.
Revenue from the sales has been earmarked to support the restoration of Stanmer Park, as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘match funding’ requirement. However the Green Group have argued that retaining the Downland sites would not threaten the Stanmer project, noting that any funding issues are required to come back to Committee for consideration.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, spokesperson for Policy, Resources and Growth Committee, commented:
“After serious objections were made to selling these sites back in December, we are disappointed to see the Council leadership being so determined to sell the land off. In fact, I was shocked to hear the deputy chair of the committee state in the presence of Downland protesters and residents that ‘the public will not notice any difference’ if the land is sold.
“On a number of occasions we have been told there are funding alternatives out there for the Stanmer Park project and we have now requested a detailed exploration of this.At both the February and July 2016 meetings of Policy and Resources Committee we heard about those possibilities, and it’s our duty to look in to them before seeing any rash decisions made on our Downland Estate.
“In our efforts to protect such an important part of our city’s environment and heritage we have put party political differences aside to do what is best for everyone. The Downland is just too precious and a loss to any part of it sets a dangerous precedent for how we treat the rest of this iconic landscape.
“The Green Group will continue to call for a complete termination of sales and hope that the Council see sense.”
The item will come to a future meeting of Policy, Resources and Growth Committee.