Bushfield Down Supporters Group

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Bushfield Down
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Photographs: Public meeting -  20th September 2003


Photographs: Bushfield Down Area




Residents win right to roam

Campaigners have won their battle for the right to roam Bushfield Down, south of Winchester.

At present, 32 acres are fenced off with "permissive access" to just 12.

But the Church Commissioners, who own the land, have now agreed to allow access to the whole area.

The row began last year when the commissioners fenced the land off with the aim of letting it to a farmer for grazing.

However, the fence was repeatedly cut and angry residents formed an action group, naming it Bushfield Rights of Way, and applying to Hampshire County Council for a public right of way across the site.

They also asked Winchester MP, Mark Oaten, to help to resolve the row, sending him a letter with 150 signatures.

It was he who brought the two sides together at his office for what he described as a "very positive" meeting.

"It looks as if the Church Commissioners will agree to some form of access onto the site. They are going to meet the residents, walk the site and look at areas where they can make access available," he said.

"Clearly the land is private and there is no public right of way, but the Church Commissioners are prepared to compromise."

The plan is to install stiles or kissing gates.

John Leonard, chairman of the action group, said he was delighted that common sense had prevailed and that campaigners had achieved their aim of "reaching a sensible solution whereby humans and animals can co-exist".

Mr Leonard added that the campaigners would be continuing with their application for a public right of way - "as a belt-and-braces precaution".

However, Jody Ford, the tenant farmer, said the agreement appeared to condone the breaking of the law.

"In most people's eyes it is going to be seen as a victory for the pressure group. I know it is tarring them all with the same brush, but they have got what they wanted through criminal damage," he said.

"I don't have a problem with them walking across the land, but I don't think they should have gone about it in this way.

"They have ignored the fact that the land is private property. Although they have been walking across it for years, they have been trespassing. Just because they have been getting away with it does not make it legal."


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