Dispute over fences

DON'T fence us in.Moves to erect a 4,000 metre fence on a village common have caused a dispute between a national pressure group and The Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

DON'T fence us in.

Moves to erect a 4,000 metre fence on a village common have caused a dispute between a national pressure group and The Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

The trust wants to erect the fence to enable it to use sheep to graze 200 acres of Sutton Common, near Woodbridge, in order to improve its wildlife importance.

However, the Open Spaces Society (OSS), a national charity which champions public access, is asking a Government minister to block the proposal.

Sutton Common, owned by the Broxted Estate, is managed by the wildlife trust as a nature reserve but there is a constant struggle to combat the invasion of the traditionally open heathland habitat by scrub species of plant.

The trust has tried electric fencing to contain the sheep and prevent them straying onto the nearby "fast" stretch of road between Woodbridge and Hollesley.

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But this experiment has failed, as a result of vandalism and difficulty in maintaining a current along such a large expanse of fencing.

Now the trust is applying to Michael Meacher, the Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for permission to erect permanent livestock fencing on the common.

Julian Roughton, the trust's director, said backing had already been obtained from the Broxted Estate and the parish council, which represented common rights holders.

"We need to graze the common to keep the habitat open. It is not realistic to have a shepherd there round-the-clock and we cannot entertain the risk of animals straying on to the road and causing accidents. It is too dangerous," he said.

Kate Ashbrook, OSS general secretary, said the fencing would be an eyesore and - even with stiles and gates - a physical and psychological barrier to public access.

"At the moment people can walk onto the common from any point on the Hollesley road. The fence will prevent them from doing so.

"The fence will make the common look more like a paddock, not the open countryside it is now," she said.

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