We oppose excessive measures to curb Forest sheep

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We have objected to the Forest of Dean District Council’s proposed measure to make so-called irresponsible shepherds into criminals.

The council has invited comments on its plans to impose a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in the village of Bream, three miles north-west of Lydney in Gloucestershire. The council wishes to address the problem of sheep wandering through the centre of the village, causing a nuisance.

Forest of Dean sheep

PSPOs were introduced in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 as a means of reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in public places, defined in the orders as Restricted Areas.

The society has objected to the use of a PSPO at Bream, which it considers to be excessive and oppressive, covering a wide area; the society says that it could endanger lawful commoning and potentially make criminals of innocent people.

The society points out that the order is flawed. Its terms are vague, the offence being to ‘take sheep into, or permit sheep to enter, or to remain on land in the Restricted Area’. It is unclear what a grazier must do to avoid being caught by this provision.

The society argues that the plan accompanying the proposed order takes in much more than the public places (ie the roads), and therefore is invalid.

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, says: ‘The society helped to advise the Home Office on the application of PSPOs during the passage of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act through parliament. We are convinced that parliament never intended PSPOs to be used as a blanket measure where there are alternative, specific, remedies available.

‘We consider that the PSPO will not have the desired effect and is far in excess of what is needed to deal with the problem of sheep in Bream.

‘If there are individuals causing a nuisance, any action should be directed specifically at them. We have offered to assist the district council in finding a solution to the problem.’

The closing date for comments is 24 August at 5pm.

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