21 March 2017
The Green Group of Councillors welcome Brighton and Hove City Council climbdown on Downland sales
Responding to the news that Brighton and Hove City Council has reversed its plans to sell off Downland estate land at Poynings and Plumpton Councillor Ollie Sykes, who sat on the cross party Policy Review Panel said:
“Greens welcome the council’s announcement that finally ends the sale of two parts of our Downland estate and have worked hard for this decision. Observers might wonder what the fuss was about and why people are concerned about selling agricultural land outside our city boundaries, when capital receipts are required for various projects around the city.
“One part of the answer to this question lies in the fate of land on the Devil’s Dyke estate sold recently by our council, on which ancient woodland trees have been felled in the past few weeks.
“A number of commentators, including the CEO of South Downs National Park Authority, have stated that public ownership is the best protection for precious rural landholdings. At the root of public ownership lies democratic oversight. Sale, lease, change of use of land in public ownership is subject to scrutiny by members of the public and by elected representatives. Land in private ownership is not, even if it is protected by national designations for biodiversity, heritage, landscape, water provision and public rights of way.
My big fear through this process was that if these parcels of land were sold, the enforcement of designations protecting their status and social value would pass to a suite of chronically under-resourced public sector bodies whose environmental protection mandate continues to be diluted by national government. Also some of the existing protections are only in place because of European legislation, which may soon become irrelevant.
“The South Downs is an iconic landscape and habitat of huge importance to our city and nationally. Its great news that we’re not going to sell it off bit by bit.”