Fence row under spotlight

CONSERVATIONISTS who fenced in a public footpath at Levington have held their hands up and admitted they got it wrong.

CONSERVATIONISTS who fenced in a public footpath at Levington have held their hands up and admitted they got it wrong.

Simon Hooton, manager of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Unit, said: “We made mistakes and I would like to apologise - we had no intention of upsetting people at all.

“We didn't get some things right. The community consultation wasn't right and we didn't pick up the vibes and concerns that the fencing would not be appreciated.

“We should have had longer consultation so more people knew about the work and alternatives could have been considered.”

Mr Hooton was speaking to a packed public meeting at Levington Village Hall yesterday as residents angered by the fencing in of the footpath, alongside a meadow owned by retired solicitor Steven Rackham and onto the cliff wall, put forward their concerns.

But while the coast and heaths unit said it wanted to negotiate with villagers about the management of the area, and assured them there were no plans for planting 30 oak trees and 2,080 hedges along the fence or to close the path during the nesting season, nothing had changed - and the fence looks certain to stay.

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The fence prevents walkers with dogs off leads taking a short-cut across the meadow, disturbing roosting and overwintering birds.

One villager described it as looking “like the entrance to a German concentration camp”.

David Hoult, for the Levington4All group, said 86 people had signed a petition against the fence and 45 people had attended an information evening.

Villagers hotly disputed claims that thousands of golden plover, lapwing and brent geese had been seen on the meadow and wanted to see details of research. Conservationists had to admit no research was done before public money was spent.

Mr Hoult said: “We used to have an open vista and now we have an eyesore thanks to this heavy-handed solution.

“Even if there was a problem with disturbance to birds, no attempt has been made to manage it in a less aggressive way.”

What do you think about the fences? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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