VOTE: Should Midhurst Gun Club have been allowed to continue clay pigeon shooting on Stedham Common?

The former chairman of a clay pigeon shooting club has criticised ‘nature-supporting extremists’ for the forced closure of the group.

Midhurst Gun Club was based at Stedham Common for 50 years. But in 2009 the owner of the common, Sussex Wildlife Trust, gave it a year’s notice to quit.

The common is a nature reserve and part of the Stedham and Iping Commons site of special scientific interest, but the trust said the monthly clay pigeon shoots were an ‘inappropriate’ activity on a nature reserve.

But in his final speech to club members at an event at the Country Inn, Bepton, former chairman John Baron made clear his own views.

He said all the club members were concerned for the environment and wildlife.

“It is important that nature-supporting extremists should not promote their causes to the exclusion of others but find ways of helping each other to co-exist and mutually enjoy the benefits of our local countryside.

“Hopefully this is something the new South Downs National Park Authority will be taking into consideration,” Mr Baron said.

The club held its last shoot at the end of 2010. Since then its former officers have officially wound up Midhurst Gun Club Ltd at Companies House and cleared the area of the common the club used. It has now also disposed of remaining club assets.

Mr Baron made his comments at a cheque presentation evening at the Country Inn, where funds of £5,596 were distributed among three charities and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation’s Young Shots Programme.

Mr Baron told the Observer club members were pleased some good was coming out of the closure, and to be able to provide a legacy supporting the future of its sport through the Young Shots Programme.

“Despite many years of trouble-free activity the club was forced to leave their ground at Stedham Common when Sussex Wildlife Trust decided that they wanted exclusive use of the land and the gun club was no longer welcome,” Mr Baron said.”

“Being unable to find an alternative site the members decided the best thing to do was to go out with a positive bang and dispose of the club’s assets by donating funds to various charities the club has supported over the years plus the club’s affiliate society, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.”

The charities chosen to receive £1,000 were: the voluntary transport organisation, Tandem; Chichester Coronary Care Club; and the Children’s Air Ambulance appeal.

Cheques were presented to representatives of the three, and to Dan Reynolds of BASC Young Shots Programme, which received the remainder.