TEMPERS frayed at a packed public meeting in Sutton, called to debate the controversial plan to return cattle to Bignor Hill.
Residents were furious they had not been consulted. Instead, they read about the proposal in the Observer.
Their anger centred on the felling of yew trees and potential damage to the historic area.
More than 200 people have now signed a petition against cattle grazing and fencing off open land.
People were so angry they insisted on the meeting to make their views heard.
Terry Johnson, chairman of Sutton Parish Council, said: “We are used to being consulted about things. In my mind, putting an article in the local paper is not consultation.”
Another villager asked: “Don’t we matter?”
The tree felling started in March at the start of the ten-year project to rejuvenate the land and there is now work to be done on the gates that will enclose the cattle.
Notices regarding the project were put on trees and gateposts in the area between February and March, though many villagers said they missed them due to poor weather.
At the meeting were Mark Wardle, National Trust head warden, Nigel James, Central Downs area manager for the South Downs National Park, and landowner William Tupper. Mr Tupper argued he was under ‘no obligation’ to tell people of the plans: “This has to be done correctly and I am trying to appease as many people as possible.
“The yew tress are toxic to animals and therefore have to go.
“The aim is not to fatten cattle, but to enhance the site.”
The national park has backed the scheme which they say would be a valuable habitat.
Mr James said: “Our permission was not required for this project to go ahead. But we want to monitor the scheme and give it a go.”
When one villager asked whether the landowner and authorities would have changed their mind if protests had been heard earlier, the response was ‘no’.
Mark Wardle said: “The yew tress on that hill are not ancient and a fence goes around the biggest and best tree.”