Woods and moorland in designated areas of outstanding natural beauty ammounting to 1,950 acres,could be sold by Somerset County Council. The Tory controlled authority which has recently cut back it;s Arts Funding and is proposing to do the same for it's Youth service , has announced its intention to "dispose of three parcels of land" including Great Wood, Custom Common at Over Stowey, and Thorncombe Hill near Crowcombe.
David Huxtable the Tory-councillor responsible for the sell-off, said " I really don't think the public need to be worried about who owns it " and maintained that the sell off would bring in "significant sums of money" .
Letiticia Kelly, chair of the Friends of the Quantocks, said they were concerned about the management of the land under private ownership. "All the rights of way would have to stay and all the conditions of public access would have to stay," she said."So whoever buys it would have to be very publicly spirited because it's not a money spinner any of these pieces of land."
Labours candidate in the recent District elections for the Quantocks ward, Over Stowey resident Shaun O'Byrne (left) said "Our County Council's intention to sell off nearly 2,000 acres of the Quantock Hills is a disgrace that must be stopped. This designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, the first in the United Kingdom to be so named, is for the enjoyment of the people and should stay in public hands. This is doctrinaire vandalism based upon a belief that private ownership is good and public ownership is bad. Private ownership of this land carries with it future risks for access and upkeep and I urge your readers to email or write to The Deputy County Solicitor at County Hall to oppose this proposed disposal of OUR land."
Former Labour Chairman of Sedgemoor District Council Sandy Buchanan says " As an ex-councillor, a rambler and a local historian, I strongly protest against the proposal to sell one of the best known and most popular parts of the Quantocks. The area has given inspiration to thousands of Somerset residents over the years. It is an enormous learning facility for youngsters of all ages. Above all it forms a vital part of the County’s heritage and should be preserved for public use. Has this County Council got no shame and no sense of history. They would not dare to put such a proposal in an election manifesto!"
Members of the public have until 23 December to respond to the proposals. The County Council has published a notice about the proposed sale and anyone who wishes to object to the disposal of the land should forward their written objection to: Honor Clark, Deputy County Solicitor, Legal Services, County Hall, Taunton TA1 4DY (ref: CNV0038/1/JAH) by 23 December 2011.