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South Downs (Public Rights)

Volume 463: debated on Monday 4 April 1949

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asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that large areas of the South Downs have been handed to the East or West Sussex Agricultural Committees for restoration pending derequisitioning, and that there is public anxiety at the resulting interference with public rights of way and other public rights in this area; and if he will make a statement on this matter.

I am satisfied that the East and West Sussex Agricultural Executive Committees do all they can to avoid interfering with public rights on and over the South Downs so far as that is consistent with the essential work of cultivation during the period before the land is derequisitioned.

Is the Minister doing his best to speed up handing this land back to its rightful owners; and if I give him details of serious interference with rights of way—interference such as no private landlord would dare to make—will he look carefully into each case and do his best to put these things right?

I shall be very happy to look at whatever information the hon. Member cares to send along. Perhaps I ought to tell him and the House that the Society of Sussex Downsmen state in their 1947 Report:

"The valuable work that is being under-taken by the East and West Sussex County Committees unfortunately led to complaints to the Society concerning bridle roads and footpaths. Their task is a very difficult one, and from interviews between representatives of the Committee and the Society it is obvious that they do respect the public rights, and do all in their power to avoid damage to bridal roads and footpaths."

Will the Minister be kind enough to look at the Society's 1948 Report, which he will find tells a very different story indeed?