Fire Beacon fight goes on in Sidmouth

PUBLISHED: 18:00 18 April 2011

CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to ‘fence in’ a Sidmouth beauty spot have warned civic leaders: “We’re not going away.”

CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to ‘fence in’ a Sidmouth beauty spot have warned civic leaders: “We’re not going away.”

Debate over Fire Beacon Hill got heated at Sidmouth Town Council’s Annual Assembly last week.

Those against plans to erect a boundary fence at the nature reserve, including a farmer who’s utilised Facebook to rally more than 700 people to his fight, were told by councillors: “You’ve had your consultation.”

Protester Stewart Williams said in response: “There are a lot of people extremely upset. We’re not going away.”

The RSPB, which manages the site on behalf of Sidmouth Town Council, last year introduced Galloway Heifers in a bid to halt encroaching birch and bracken.

Experts want to erect a 2,200 meter post and wire gated perimeter fence to stop the animals straying.

Questions over Fire Beacon bye-laws - which prohibit both fencing and grazing- remained unanswered last Thursday night.

Town councillors said these were a district council matter.

Objectors labelled a public consultation over the controversial move as “flawed.”

The poll, staged last year, saw 31 respondents support fence plans while 24 people objected.

Councillors insist they will go ahead with the project- saying it will protect the popular spot as a valued nature reserve.

Chairman, Councillor Peter Sullivan, said: “All we can do is take the advice of our managers (the RSPB). You’ve had your consultation- there’s nothing we have seen that explains why it can’t happen. It’s a nature reserve, not a recreational area.”

“People go up there for the feeling of freedom and spiritual refreshment in an open space- it’s just another field if you have to go through gates,” said one Fire Beacon user.

Nearby resident Derek Carter said land management “takes precedence over man’s natural wish to wander at will or to exercise domestic pets.”

RSPB warden Toby Taylor, who manages the reserve, has long said cattle are key to chomping invasive vegetation that threatens to overwhelm the site.

The Planning Inspectorate will decide the fate of the proposed fence.


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