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Hampshire County Council and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have withdrawn their controversial plan to erect fencing on Yateley Common. They had applied to the Planning Inspectorate for consent, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, to erect 24 kilometres of fencing on the common to enable it to be grazed.
The common is heathland and part of it is a site of special scientific interest and special protection area. The applicants believe that the introduction of grazing is the most effective and sustainable way to protect this protected and precious habitat and prevent scrub and woodland encroachment.
However, in view of the many objections, they have withdrawn the current application and are considering a modified application to graze a smaller part of the common. This would illustrate how any proposals would work and enable the applicants to address some of the technical concerns raised.
This is an excellent outcome. We are delighted that the applicants have heeded the many objectors and are revising their plans accordingly.
There is a public right to walk and ride over this common. While the society agrees that it is desirable to graze the common, to protect and increase its range of flora and fauna, we felt that the fencing was far too extensive and would divide the common into paddocks. This is contrary to the open nature of the common and people’s enjoyment on foot and horseback.
We argued that alternative solutions had been dismissed too readily. For instance, buried-cable fencing is being used effectively on the heavily-visited commons of Burnham Beeches in Bucks and Epping Forest in Essex. Or temporary fencing would give the applicants the opportunity to demonstrate whether the grazing was having the desired effect. We felt this wholesale fencing was premature.
So the solution, of smaller-scale fencing to test the outcomes is admirable and we look forward to further consultation on how this might be achieved.