Fencing is being installed er part of Iping Common, near Midhurst, to enable grazing by cattle.
Sussex Wildlife Trust, which now owns most of the common, said this week it would be temporary for six months, with electric fencing, to enable a study into the impact of grazing on the habitat of heathland spiders and other invertebrates.
Any plans for permanent grazing of the common would be subject to consultation, said Jane Willmott, the trust’s living landscapes officer.
Iping Common is one of the most extensively used areas of common land in the area – popular with walkers, dog owners and horse riders as well as wildlife enthusiasts who spend many hours on the heath seeking to see and hear rare birds the managed habitat encourages.
The measure to fence even part of it revives memories of a bitter battle between the trust and local people when it proposed in 1996 to totally enclose neighbouring Stedham Common to allow permanent grazing.
The ferocity of local opposition led to a public inquiry in 1998 which the trust won. It fenced the common in 2000.
Mrs Willmott said the organisation’s management plan for Iping Common included consideration of grazing there.
“Apart from us getting the information from the study, this temporary fencing will give people an opportunity to see what it is like if we had rotating grazing with electric fencing,” she said.
The enclosed area would be less than nine hectares, which is 22 acres and about ten per cent of the total area. Restricting it to the ten per cent figure enables the trust to avoid having to apply for consent for the fencing under the Commons Act.
Another plot, which will not be fenced or grazed, is to be surveyed as part of the study, for which the trust has received special funding.
Mrs Willmott said public access would be maintained at all times and the electric fencing would not cross bridleways because of the difficulties that would cause horse riders, or any official rights of way.
There would be metal gates in the fence lines where it crossed informal pathways.