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LibDem MEP candidates visit Brexit-threatened Ashdown Forest

May 19, 2019 11:56 AM
By Katrina Best

Essential EU funding for Ashdown Forest is at risk due to Brexit

Antony Hook & Wealden LibDems at Ashdown Forest May 18 2019LibDem MEP candidates Antony Hook and Chris Bowers visited Ashdown Forest Centre on Saturday May 18th, along with other Wealden Liberal Democrat activists including newly elected District Councillor Paul Sparks to hear from Rangers and Forest Conservators about the funding crisis now looming over this precious area.

Originally a deer hunting forest in Norman times, Ashdown Forest is now one of the largest free public access spaces in the South East and is known the world over as the 'home' of Winnie-the-Pooh. The Forest is at the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has national and international protection because of its wildlife. Nearly two thirds of its 6500 acres (2500 hectares) are heathland, amounting to 2.5% of the UK's extent of this rare habitat.

The European Union's current funding of £5.5 million over 10 years provides two-thirds of the total Ashdown Forest budget, and is paid under EU agricultural and rural funds for the Countryside Stewardship scheme. These funds are now at risk from Brexit (with or without a deal) which would plunge Ashdown Forest into crisis.

Wealden LibDems urge: STOP BREXIT and save Ashdown Forest from a funding crisis

The UK government's vague promises to continue funding do not allay fears, especially given its recent failure to meet a simple deadline for securing badly needed and still-available EU funding for poverty relief. And thanks to years of Tory austerity, local Council cuts have meant vastly reduced local funding so the EU funding is needed now more than ever.

Antony promised that if elected an MEP on 23rd May he will take immediate action to ensure Ashdown Forest continues to receive the funding it so badly needs, and to avoid the recent crippling delays in payments made by DEFRA in recent years.

MEP candidate Antony Hook & Wealden LibDems at Ashdown Forest May 18 2019