Parish care is turned Down
A PROPOSAL for Horndean Parish Council to take over Catherington Down has been turned down, but talks over the land look set to continue.
Horndean councillors have decided not to take ownership of the down, currently in the hands of Hampshire County Council.
The decision has been welcomed by opponents of the proposal, who say residents may have become liable for its upkeep if the transfer had gone ahead.
It was given to Hampshire in 1963 by a Captain T H Long, but to save money the authority offered to hand it the parish council.
Parish council leader Cllr Lynne Evans was one of four members who voted to take over the 32-acre site.
She said: “We already maintain it, and there will be further talks with the county council.”
The county council gives Horndean Parish Council £500 a year to look after the down, and about £2,000 of a £8,200 Natural England grant helps to maintain it.
The parish council has also spent money on the public open space, popular with residents.
The proposal to take over the grazing land was defeated by five councillors.
Their supporters said the amount of residents’ money being spent on the land has soared as the county council grant would stop and the Natural England grant wasn’t indefinitely guaranteed.
Supporting their view that it would cost too much to manage, was the scrapping of a proposal to re-fence the down.
The work was to go ahead using a scheme aimed at giving teenagers summer work, but it was abandoned because of employment issues and the cost of the work.
Catherington Down remains virtually as it was in medieval times, with ancient field systems, called strip-lynchets,‟ providing a visible legacy of this historic method of farming.
The steep terraces of the strip lynchetts are thought to have made it hard to improve the land, so making it not worth farming seriously.
It became a local nature reserve in 1979, and in 1984 was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The rolling fields are now inside the South Downs National Park.
Cllr Evans said: “We will continue looking after the down. It will stay open to everyone.”
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Monday 09 December 2013
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