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We are delighted that Worthing Borough Council’s Cabinet decided on 3 December to withdraw from sale its downland at Cissbury in West Sussex, following strong representations from the Open Spaces Society, Stop Cissbury Sell-Off and countless other organisations and individuals. However, now we need to ensure that the land’s long-term future is secured.
We wrote last week to the leader, Paul Yallop, and the Cabinet Member for Resources, Steve Waight, to say that, while we applaud the recommendation to withdraw the land for sale, we are concerned that the council is considering a policy of selling leasehold interests in its land, on the advice of ‘a prominent developer’.
‘We believe that would be the wrong solution for the Cissbury downland,’ says our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook.
‘The council must remain clearly in control and, unless there are clear caveats about how the land is to be managed, to secure public access and to protect and restore the landscape and its natural history, these downs will be lost the public and to future generations.
‘That would be ironic just as the area is confirmed as the South Downs National Park,’ Kate argues.
‘One option might be to enter into a partnership with the National Trust which owns adjoining land, so that the trust oversees the management of Worthing’s land and ensures that this always is in the public interest.
‘The council met the National Trust and the South Downs Joint Committee immediately before the Cabinet meeting. We hope that it will carry out a full consultation with all who have an interest in this wonderful area. The protest rally on 14 November showed the huge strength of feeling, locally and nationally, about the need to safeguard this area,’ Kate concludes.