Gorse clearance plans spark anger at meeting

CONTROVERSIAL plans to remove gorse and scrub from Suffolk's oldest heathland faced a barrage of protest at a meeting last night.

Simon Tomlinson

CONTROVERSIAL plans to remove gorse and scrub from Suffolk's oldest heathland faced a barrage of protest at a meeting last night.

The Trustees of Rushmere Common believe the landscaping project will improve wildlife and create greater areas of heather and grassland.

The �100,000 scheme has been divisive from the outset, but feelings reached a crescendo in Rushmere Village Hall when commoners called for a vote of no confidence in the trustees.

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In an unofficial ballot, only two people from around 100 voted in favour of the proposals as they stood with the vast majority calling for the project to be scrapped altogether.

Around a dozen wanted the heathland to be managed to some degree, but not in line with the current plan.

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But despite the strength of opposition, chairman Don Ayre said the final decision would lay with the trustees.

Mr Ayre said around 50 per cent of the gorse would be removed, leaving a framework of the vegetation to follow the fairways of the golf course.

But residents believe it will have an adverse effect on wildlife and members of the golf club are worried the course would be made easier and less attractive.

Mr Ayre was heckled throughout the Commoners' special general meeting, facing pressure to ditch the plans and even received hints for him to resign.

He was also accused of ignoring the wishes of the commoners by railroading through the project.

Lawrie Brennan, who plays at Rushmere Golf Club, said members would vote with their feet and leave if the project went ahead.

He added that the trustees were trying to push through a plan that “the majority of people here did not want.”

Another commoner said: “You represent us. There will be a lot of unrest on the heath if it goes ahead.”

Peter Robertson added: “I don't see why you can't use the money for constructive things rather than destroy everything. It needs to be done properly.”

Brian Porter claimed the plan “is more likely to be a failure.”

But the wildlife advisor behind the scheme, David Price, said the changes would enhance wildlife and have been given the backing by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

He said: “It does look destructive but as time goes on you end up with something that is better than when you first started.”

One commoner also spoke in favour, adding: “The gorse is full of litter and dog mess. It needs clearing out.”

The work - which had been backed by Suffolk Coastal District Council, Natural England and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust - has been subjected to a number of changes during the consultation and was due to begin in the winter.


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