Animals can roam again

PUBLISHED: 10:52 11 October 2007 | UPDATED: 12:57 04 May 2010

COMMON land in Soham is to once again see horses and cattle running free in a new countryside initiative for Qua Fen Common, East Fen Common and South Horse Fen. Soham Town Council has secured funding to preserve grazing land for the community on the comm

COMMON land in Soham is to once again see horses and cattle running free in a new countryside initiative for Qua Fen Common, East Fen Common and South Horse Fen.

Soham Town Council has secured funding to preserve grazing land for the community on the commons.

Natural England, which offers funding for land management, helped the town council secure an initial grant of £9,000 for the scheme and payments of £6,500 for the next 10 years.

Now councillors have issued letters to houses next to the commons reminding them of their responsibilities to fence their properties.

The move comes after the town council was threatened with legal action earlier this year when straying animals destroyed plants in front gardens and damaged cars.

Residents had urged the council to put up signs as a reminder of the bylaws, but it rejected the idea claiming it was too expensive and there was a risk of vandalism.

Town council chairman, Cllr Rosemary Aitchison stressed during a Soham Town Forum meeting last Thursday that the council was only responsible for the common itself, not for animals which stray over the boundary. It would cost £20,000 to install just one cattle grid, she said, but the council did not have the money to do so.

Alex Nichols, from Natural England, said of the scheme: "It is competitive and Soham put in a very strong case. The commons have a lot of public access so we're hoping the people of Soham will come and enjoy the biodiversity and semi-natural habitats there."

The commons are protected from development by law and were first set aside for peasant farming in the 17th century. Farmers can still apply to the town council to graze animals on the land.

"I think it's a great thing for Soham and will help to preserve the commons for generations to come," said Cllr Aitchison. "I hated seeing animals tethered on that land.

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