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Woman, 90, locks herself to railing

An elderly woman has spent her 90th birthday chained to railings in protest at what she says is a council's obstruction to plans for a residential care and learning centre.

Sylvia Westley unfurled an 8ft tall banner with a message of defiance against East Sussex County Council before padlocking herself to railings.

Campaigners say they have raised more than £800,000 over the past seven years to build a residential care and learning centre for 24 people with severe learning disabilities at Ocklynge Chalk Pit in Eastbourne.

The plans were drawn up by local charity JPK Project, which formed after discovering a need for residential accommodation locally for people with learning disabilities.

Eastbourne Borough Council granted planning permission for the facility last year but campaigners claim they have faced opposition at county level.

Desperate to press their case, widow Ms Westley, who lives in sheltered accommodation in Hailsham, decided to take a stand on her 90th birthday and chained herself at the site.

She said: "I may be 90 but I will not lie down on this. I would go to jail over this because I think it's absolutely cruel behaviour. What the council is perpetrating is man's inhumanity against man."

Ms Westley was chained to the railings for roughly an hour before releasing herself, and then continued her protest for the rest of the day.

The county council said it leases the site from Sussex Downs College to provide a grounds maintenance service to local schools and other council buildings.

It said it would be happy to vacate the site but so far the college has not found an alternative, suitable location to continue its "vital and long-term" service.

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