The new owners of Feathercombe Farm invited parish councillors to a site visit to outline plans to fence in the footpath across the fields between Hambledon Church and the woods below Hydon’s Ball.
Alice Servaes, on behalf of the Trinity Partnership which recently acquired the 240-acre farm, met with Stewart Payne, Alison Scott-Bishop and Simon Rhodes in early September to explain why it wishes to erect oak post and wire fencing across what is known as Fourteen Acre Copse.
The popular and scenic footpath 181, a public right-of-way, runs across the centre of this field from the churchyard to a kissing gate in the middle, and then continues at an angle across the second part of the field to another kissing gate where it enters woodland. Currently this path is unfenced.
Alice said that the fencing is necessary to ensure the well-being of polo ponies that will be grazing either side of the path. This is being put to high-quality grass, but was previously used for crops.
She was particularly concerned that some dog walkers allow their pets to run free in the field, and do not keep to the footpath. Evidence of dog fouling some distance away from the path was shown to councillors.
Alice said there will be no obstruction or deviation to the existing footpath and walkers will have a two-metre-wide track, with waist-height wire fencing either side. The view from the path will be unaffected. It is common practice for landowners to erect fencing beside rights-of-way to protect crops, livestock or horses, she said.
No barbed wire will be used and a grass verge will be maintained either side to keep some distance from electric fencing which will be used to keep horses away from the path.
Alice said trespass was a problem and she had also seen horse riders in the lower field area even though the path is not a bridleway.
At an earlier site meeting to discuss a proposed horse exercise track, Alice assured councillors that the owners had no intention of appealing the rejection by Waverley Borough Council for what amounted to a stable unit in the lower field. This proposal was widely opposed by Hambledon residents and the parish council earlier this year. Alice and her planning team said it would not be seeking any similar permission in this field.
The exercise track, which will require planning permission (not yet submitted) will be in a field behind the existing Feathercombe Farm buildings, accessed off Feathercombe Lane. It will not be lit, nor will it have any buildings and is unlikely to be visible from public footpaths.
Councillors asked if the footpath fencing could be wider than two metres, to allow for family groups to walk side-by-side. Alice noted the suggestion but did not give any commitment.
The parish council has confirmed that landowners have the right to fence their fields without requiring planning permission. The path is in the Green Belt and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The council sought a view from Surrey Hills AONB board, and it said it would raise no objections.
Public rights-of-way are the responsibility of county councils, and the Parish Council has also contacted Surrey County Council. At the time of writing, there has been no response.