The referendum on Seaford’s neighbourhood plan is coming up.

Although the town is surrounded by the downs and the sea, there are not many green spaces in the town itself.

A group of residents who are concerned about the loss of green space in the town has made the following statement:

 “The purpose of the neighbourhood plan was to give local people a say about the development and growth of their town – including crucially where new housing could be sited and which green spaces should be saved and protected from development.

Government guidelines define spaces of public value as including ‘open spaces that provide health and recreation benefits to local people, have an ecological value and contribute to green infrastructure as well as being an important part of the landscape and setting of the built development, and an important component in the achievement of sustainable development.’ 

During the making of the Seaford Neighbourhood Plan (SNP), the grounds of the Downs Leisure Centre, together with other important existing recreation and outdoor sports facilities such as The Salts, Walmer Road Recreation Ground, The Crouch and school playgrounds were recognised as having policies in place to protect them from development. However, in October 2018 these protections were disregarded by both district and town councils. Despite being a protected site and a community asset, assessed as unsuitable for housing and in the absence of any health or retail studies being undertaken, the Downs Leisure Centre was entered into the SNP as a site for the major development of health facilities, retail, housing and car parks. After a year of grassroots campaigning and objections during the SNP consultation process, the independent Examiner has upheld the original assessment of the Downs Leisure Centre site as an important recreation facility for the town.

Nonetheless, with changes to local planning policies pending and legislation that potentially weakens protection of public open spaces, and as the past year’s events have shown, our public recreation grounds remain vulnerable to the threat of development even from the local authority whose role we understood to be the custodians of our recreational green spaces. Even as the neighbourhood plan claimed to protect, preserve and expand on the local green spaces in Seaford’,  Seaford Town Council supported the development on the Downs and the erasure of its garden, playing field and historic flint barns from the map of Seaford. How can residents entrust our councils to protect our public grounds from destruction in the future?

The independent Examiner has also rejected and thrown out 3 large sites that the Seaford Neighbourhood Plan sought to save as designated Local Green Spaces (LGS) but which did not meet the strict criteria. But no other spaces have been substituted in their place, even though key public spaces deserving of protection, that would meet ALL the criteria have not been assessed and hence remain vulnerable to future development.

These are the criteria for designating a LGS: a) it is reasonably close proximity to the community it serves; b) it is demonstrably special to a local community and holds a particular local significance – for example, because of its beauty, historical significance, recreational value (including as a playing field), tranquillity or richness of wildlife; c) The green area is local in character and not an extensive tract of land. The grounds of the Downs Leisure Centre clearly fulfil all these criteria.

Lewes District Council has declared a Climate Emergency and thus it falls to them and indeed to all of us to preserve the trees, flora and fauna and soil of all our green spaces that are a habitat to declining species and are the heart and lungs of our town. They absorb CO2 and provide health, social and recreational benefits to the whole community. It is impossible to put a price of these assets – but once they are gone, they are gone forever.

Without robust protection the loss of any of these green spaces would add to the town’s substantial shortfall of public sports and recreation grounds. Of Seaford’s four existing public recreation grounds, only The Crouch was assessed and granted the protection of LGS designation in the Neighbourhood Plan. Over 4,500 towns people have signed the petition to save the recreation grounds at the Downs. The referendum asks the town to vote for a neighbourhood plan that fails to adequately protect time-honoured, heavily-used and cherished green spaces. Without amending the local green spaces report, the SNP could become a legacy for the disappearance of green spaces from our town.

We urge Seaford Town Council, as the Qualifying Body of Seaford’s Neighbourhood Plan, to assess all of Seaford’s public recreation/sports grounds against the criteria for Local Green Space designation before the town goes to vote in the Referendum, to ensure these grounds have the fullest protection within the Plan, for the communities whom they serve now and for future generations.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Macvean, Stoke Manor Close

Ann Roe, Sutton Drove

Anne Holderness, Sutton Drove

Bob Downing, Heathfield Road

Brian Butler, Bacombe Avenue

Briony Player, Sutton Drove

C Wells, Sutton Avenue

Carol Whitehead, Vale Road, Seaford

Chris Preist, Sutton Drove

Chris Sumners, Etherton Way

Christine Arnold, Sutton Drove

Christine Harris, Hindover Road

Christine Smith, Sandore Road

Claire Sumners, Etherton Way

I Sharpe, Belgrave Crescent

David Joyce, Homefield Road

David Pollard, Harison Road

David Tait, Sutton Road

Deborah Foord, Sutton Road

Georgina Craigs, Hindover Road

Geraldine Gleeson, Lexden Road

Helen Pollard, Harison Road

Helen Thomas, Church Street

Holger Zschenderlein, Sutton Drove

Ian Cairns, Gerald Road

Irene Bradley, Bydown

Isobel Tait, Steyne Road

J Woolmer, Vale Road

James Liskutin, Argent Close

James Pope, Sutton Road

John Tompsett, St. Peters Road

Joseph Morrell, Sutton Drove

Karen Hall, Sutton Drove

Katharine Tompsett, St Peters Road

Keith Rogers, Hartfield Road

Lindsay Kelly, The Byeways

Lisa Bagot, Sutton Drove

M Belham, Sutton Road

Mark Swan, Sutton Drove

Mary McCluskie, Sutton Road

Nicola Mennie, Brooklyn Road

Paul Smith, Sandore Road

Pete James, Bydown

Peter de la Nougerede, Arundel Road

Rachel Newell, Vale Road

Rita Boswell, Bydown

Rob Newell, Vale Road

Roger Jones, Beacon Drive

S Duba, Park Road

S White, Stafford RoI

Steve Dartnall, The Byeways

Susan Belchamber, Blue Haze Avenue

Terry Osborn, Vale Road

Tony King, Rookery Way

Vanessa Lawrence, Buckle Close

Wendy T, Kingston Way

Yasmin Gratwick, Chesterton Avenue”

The Eye has not verified the statements made, but believes that the article deserves attention. Seaford Town Council and Lewes District Council are being contacted for comment.