Farmers, walkers and riders have lost their fight to stop the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT) fencing Iping and Trotton Commons and bringing in cattle to graze.
Their long campaign ended at a battle in front of a government planning inspector at a public inquiry in Easebourne.
And inspector Peter Millman has announced he is giving the trust permission to go ahead.
At the public inquiry farmers said they feared a further outbreak of bovine tuberculosis (btb) if the SWT was allowed to bring in cattle to graze.
They told of the ‘dreadful’ consequences after an outbreak on Stedham Common last year. The cow which tested positive was owned by the SWT and was part of the trust’s herd grazing on the common.
Nearby farmers were subjected to restrictions banning them from moving cattle and their cattle had to undergo repeated and costly testing.
One farmer said it had cost him £100,000 in lost cattle which had to be slaughtered, milk and vets bills.
But Mr Millman said: “It seems to me from the evidence given to the inquiry that it is no more likely that btb will be introduced to West Sussex in the future by SWT cattle than by any of the other 1000s of cattle that come into the county each year from high risk areas. It is not the fault of SWT that there is not a more accurate way of testing for btb.”
He said he believed he should give ‘considerable’ weight to the importance of enhancing biodiversity and protecting threatened habitats.
“The evidence presented supports on the whole, the view grazing ... would probably be a useful took in helping to bring the site into favourable condition. This cannot happen unless permission is granted for fencing.”
Mr Millman said he did not accept the fence would be ‘too visible’.
Although would be some ‘disbenefit’ for horse riders he said but he did not accept proposed gates would permanently prevent riders using the common.
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