Country groups divided by fence

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The Independent Online
An acrimonious dispute has broken out between two of Britain's oldest amenity groups, the National Trust and the Open Spaces Society, over the trust's proposals to fence in common land, writes David Nicholson-Lord.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the society, yesterday accused the trust of arrogance, 'shabby' behaviour and ignoring the law in planning to fence in commons on land it owns at Holford in the Quantock Hills in Somerset. According to Ms Ashbrook, the trust's 'green credibility' is in doubt.

She said the proposals were the first of many fencing plans for commons managed by the trust, including Hindhead in Surrey, Dumpdon Hill in Devon and Danbury Common in Essex.

She added: 'Two hundred years ago, fences and quickset hedges were fast encompassing the commons. By a sad irony, a great organisation to which we look for the protection of our remaining open space repeats the process.'

The Holford commons will remain open to the public under the trust's plans. But the society says fences are contrary to legislation compelling the trust to keep common land unenclosed.

The trust yesterday said the fence was being erected to preserve wildlife. 'It is nonsense to say our green credibility is under fire. We are doing this for green reasons.'