Eastbourne Borough Council has responded to a statement from the town’s MP, Caroline Ansell over the proposed sale of the freehold of downland farms.
Town Hall has released the following statement:
"Last week (10 February) the council met with Caroline Ansell MP and campaigners about the sale of the working farms.
"The council would like to clarify several matters that have been referred to in a statement from the MP that was released following the meeting.
"Firstly, in regard to covenants, the Leader of the Council, Councillor David Tutt, offered to work with the campaign group on any further protections felt necessary for the working farms, including new covenants, should the matter proceed to open market sale. There was no commitment given to specifically include the MP in co-writing new covenants.
"Secondly, when a council consults on a proposal, it is good practice to clearly set out what it proposes to do and why, make that information as widely available as possible, invite feedback from its community, respond to that feedback, and take all views into consideration when making a final decision. That is exactly the process that has been followed in this case.
"Thirdly, the MP states that the result of the opinion poll will not be in any way defining and appears to be implying that a referendum would be more robust. This is not the case.
"The only kind of referendum that a council can lawfully conduct is a non-binding local advisory referendum. Such a referendum would have to be confined to a simple yes/no or either/or question and would be accessible only to residents on the Eastbourne electoral register.
"Exactly the same opportunity in every detail is being presented by the council to the Eastbourne community in the informal ballot contained within the Eastbourne Review. The only major difference is that conducting a referendum would cost Eastbourne taxpayers an unbudgeted-for sum of around £150k, whereas the method being used by the council gives everyone the same opportunity to give their opinion of equal validity at a fraction of the cost."
You can read Caroline Ansell's original statement, here.