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Horley action group formed to fight land fence-off proposal
12:38pm Tuesday 12th June 2012 in News
A band of Horley residents have formed an action group to fight what they say is a “ludicrous” and potentially “grave” proposal to fence off land for cattle grazing.
The residents have attacked a proposal from Reigate and Banstead Borough Council to fence off Tanyard Meadows, the land next to the new North-east housing development, The Acres.
They have launched an e-petition against the scheme and are urging people to sign it before Friday, June 22.
Their hope is that if enough people sign the petition, the issue will be escalated to Surrey County Council for consideration.
The action group has said Tanyard Meadows, 19 acres of land along the Burstow Stream, belongs to the people of Horley as part of the town's Master Plan, and will form part of the Riverside Green Chain around it.
Local resident Paul Hibbert said: “Currently the land is used by many residents, old and new, who enjoy free and unrestricted access across the land.
“The council proposal will see all the land divided up into individual fields by fences, and then rented to a grazier who will put cattle on the fields to manage the land.”
Mr Hibbert of Langshott said: “This proposal is ludicrous. A wide range of local residents use these meadows for dog walking, rambling and other outdoor pursuits, and to fence them off will deny many people access to open land that is rapidly diminishing around the town.”
He said: “The land is for the benefit of the people of Horley - not for the borough council to profit from.”
Fellow Langshott resident Andrea Harding said she had “grave” safety concerns as the cattle will be grazing in close proximity to a new estate of 700-plus houses, putting both animals and children at potential risk.
She said: “The fields are virtually their ‘back’ gardens. Dog walkers are particularly concerned as dogs and cattle do not mix - another recipe for disaster.”
Mr Hibbert said: “One Langshott resident, who has Multiple Sclerosis and uses a Tramper all-terrain mobility scooter, is also concerned that the proposed extensive fencing will deny her unrestricted access to the fields that she enjoys using at present.
“It is therefore likely that the fenced off areas will be inaccessible.”
But a spokeswoman for Reigate and Banstead Borough Council said it had been consulting with the community and was committed to ensuring the area stayed one which “conserves and enhances wildlife and which can be enjoyed by local people.”
The spokeswoman said: “Over the last six months, the council has been undertaking consultation to help shape the future design and management of Horley’s Riverside Green Chain.
“The council is committed to ensuring that this area will provide an important natural setting that conserves and enhances wildlife and which can be enjoyed by local people for a variety of informal recreational activities.”
She said: “We surveyed local residents at the end of last year and since then we have been talking to a variety of different people, interest groups and formal bodies as part of our consultation process.
“This includes bodies such as the Environment Agency, English Heritage and Surrey County Council, who we have a legal obligation to consult.
“It also includes people with disabilities, older people, young people, dog walkers, horse riders, cyclists and conservationists.”
She said: “This initial stage of consultation is nearing completion and the council will soon be considering what people have told us before starting to work up proposals.”
She stressed: “We are aware that some people, particularly dog walkers, have concerns in relation to the use of grazing as one of the ways in which the land could be managed, and the installation of new fencing and strengthening of hedgerows to field boundaries.
“We will fully consider these views as well as those of other people and bodies before making any decisions.”
The action group is aiming for at least 400 signatures on its e-petition at: http://petitions.reigate-banstead.gov.uk/TanyardMeadows/