Two beloved downland sites have been given a second reprieve at the eleventh hour.

Conservative and Green councillors have voted for a second delay on the sale of land at Plumpton Hill and Poynings calling for more information on the land sales and asking officers to explore alternative revenue raising options.

Brighton and Hove City Council had proposed to sell the sites to help fund the restoration of Stanmer Park.

Labour councillors warned further delays would put their successful bid for £3.8 million of Heritage Lottery Fund, confirmed earlier this month, in jeopardy.

The sales, which were initially halted before Christmas, will now be discussed by an urgent policy panel before coming back to committee for a final decision.

Campaigners had warned that the sale of either site would be a “dagger” through the council’s entire estate and lead to more widespread sales similar to neighbour Eastbourne.

Council officers have said no further downs land sales are currently planned.

Officers said earlier this week the proposed sale of the council-owned Downland would not put the sites, which represent less than one per cent of the total estate, around the city at risk.

But campaigners claim selling the land into private ownership could lead to a drop in public accessibility and land management.

The council is looking to raise the £1.42 million it needs towards the £5.8 million Stanmer Park restoration.

The sale of the Poyning and Plumpton Hill sites will raise £360,000, and just half of that towards the HLF project, a figure environmentalists say is “pathetically” low to warrant the loss from public ownership of the sites.

The council approved the disposal of the “non-core agricultural assets”, the biggest sell-off of council downland in more than 20 years, in committee meetings in July 2014 and again in February and July this year.

The two sites are considered by environmentalists to be among the most precious among Brighton and Hove City Council’s downland holding of around 12,000 acres.

Labour's Gill Mitchell said she had concerns about the HLF funds if there were further delays.

She said: "If there is further delay with the council stepping up with its percentage of its funding, I'm concerned about the timing of this in terms of the money coming through from the HLF and getting a decision in a review."

Green covenor Phelim MacCafferty said councillors understood the need for urgency in the matter and no councillors wished the further scrutiny to jeopardise the HLF bid.

He said there had been a failure to explore alternative funding avenues "to the maximum" for the Stanmer Masterplan.

Council leader Warren Morgan said he was "frustrated" at further delays and said the committee was not making decisions "very clearly or very rapidly".

His Labour colleague Les Hamilton said the process was the most peculiar in his 45 years as a councillor with councillors now challenging sales they had agreed to two years ago. 

He said the sale of the lands for one hundred times its annual returns made good economic sense and said the public would see no change in the land after the sale.

Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said it was important fears that the sale of the two small sites might be the beginning of wider sales needed to be "hit on the head".