Victory for heathland protestors

CONTROVERSIAL proposals to remove scrub and gorse from Suffolk's oldest heathland have been dropped in the face of strong opposition.

Craig Robinson

CONTROVERSIAL proposals to remove scrub and gorse from Suffolk's oldest heathland have been dropped in the face of strong opposition.

The Trustees of Rushmere Common unveiled the plans last year and embarked on a series of public consultations.

They believed the scheme would safeguard the character of the heathland as part of the Suffolk Sandlings and prevent it from becoming overgrown.


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But the proposals sparked criticism from those concerned about a change to landscape and an impact on wildlife.

There was also opposition from Rushmere Golf Club, which feared the plans could have a devastating effect on the course and drive members away.

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But at a meeting on Monday night it was decided the Rushmere Heath Heritage Project should be abandoned.

Don Ayre, chairman of the Trustees, said: “The restoration scheme has been substantially changed over the past 12 months in an attempt to meet the concerns of Commoners and the golf club but this has not altered the views of people who strongly oppose the principles of the project.

“There has been some vocal opposition but many people have supported all or most of it.”

Mr Ayre said the restoration scheme was to be undertaken in conjunction with educational and research projects, involving local schools and engaging volunteers in investigating the history, flora and fauna of the Common.

“This was expected to reinforce the value of common ownership to local people and develop pride in the area, thereby reducing the risks of vandalism,” he said. “The benefits of having a more varied and comprehensively managed heathland, which would have had beneficial effects for wildlife, will now be lost to the Common and local people.”

Mr Ayre said the grants obtained for the project - which had been backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Suffolk Coastal District Council, Natural England and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust - would now have to be returned.

He added that the Trustees would continue to look at what maintenance work could be carried out on the Common because without some form of management there was a risk it would become increasingly degraded.

Last night Max Newport, chairman of the business committee at Rushmere Golf Club, welcomed the decision.

“Alarm was raised not just by golfers but by the Commoners themselves,” he said. “We have never been against management of the Common - it just needs to be controlled. We are happy to co-operate with the Commoners in any way on that basis.”

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