Suffolk common can be fenced

A GOVERNMENT minister has given the go-ahead for a Suffolk common to be fenced – despite opposition from right to roam campaigners.Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), has approved an application from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust to fence 200 acres of Sutton Common, near Woodbridge.

A GOVERNMENT minister has given the go-ahead for a Suffolk common to be fenced – despite opposition from right to roam campaigners.

Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), has approved an application from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust to fence 200 acres of Sutton Common, near Woodbridge.

The decision follows 12 months of public consultation.

Access to the common will be preserved through a series of gates.


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The trust has sought permission to erect 4,000 metres of fences in order to prevent sheep which graze the wildlife-rich common from straying on to a nearby road and causing accidents.

But the Open Spaces Society had opposed the permanent fencing, claiming that commons should remain completely open in character – in line with their historical role.

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Mrs Beckett's decision was welcomed yesterday by the trust which uses the grazing of its own flock of sheep to prevent the invasion of the heath by scrub vegetation.

The sheep keep the sward closely-cropped, enabling the smaller and rare species of plants – and the creatures which depend on them – to survive.

"The fence will prevent our sheep straying on to the road and make it easier to manage the common for wildlife," said Steve Aylward, manager of the trust's nature reserves.

"We have the support of the parish council and local landowners and have identified every public access point so that people will be able to continue to enter the common at the same places they have used in the past," he said.

Local contractors will start erecting the fencing at the beginning of November.

The enclosed area will then be used by the trust to graze its sheep flock between May and September each year.

"Our sheep are an important tool in conserving the unique heathland habitat. Grazing helps create the right conditions for colonisation by s host of wildlife including, we hope, an adjacent population of nationally scarce silver studded blue butterflies," Mr Aylward added.

Dartford warblers were already colonising the area and it should be possible to attract woodlarks and nightjars.

The Open Spaces Society had called for the abandonment of the fence idea and, instead, the use of shepherds to control the flock and measures to reduce the speed of vehicles on the nearby road.

Kate Shbrook, its general secretary, said yesterday she was disappointed that DEFRA had rejected the society's arguments.

"We believe the fencing will be an eyesore and, even with stiles and gates, a physical and psychological barrier to public access.

"The fence will make the common look more like a paddock and not the open countryside it is now," she added.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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