A householder living in a 15th century cottage surrounded by a stream fears his property could be more vulnerable to flooding when cattle begin grazing on Ditchling Common in the summer.
Brian Denyer-Baker says plans by East Sussex County Council to graze cattle to keep down unwanted vegetation, as well as a planned development of 480 homes to the west of his Grade II listed property could, potentially, raise water levels.
He said:“Part of the stream was blocked in about 1995 and flood water came into our garden and we had to have a new conservatory. The fire brigade told us then that the stream needed clearing.
“I’m worried that cattle will degrade the banks because it’s well known they like to be near water.”
He alleged: “Ever since I’ve been here, the Common has hardly been touched. The council is saving the clearance work that should have been done, for the cattle to do.”
Mr Denyer-Baker welcomes fencing that will help to deter travellers but says the position of his home, Pollards Farm Cottage, on the border of East and West Sussex has, quite literally, muddied the waters over who is responsible for the section of stream close to his property.
East Sussex County Council confirmed on Monday that the stream had been inspected in response to Mr Denyer-Baker’s concerns and would be “closely monitored”.
A planned development of 480 homes at Ditchling Common Stud has also raised flooding concerns, but developer, Sunley, confirmed that attentuation ponds will be installed to take up excess water.
Explaining the decision to put grazing cattle on the Common, a spokesman for the county council said: “The funding we have obtained for grazing on Ditchling Common comes from Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme.
“We will receive around £7,500 for the initial fencing work that will be required, followed by £10,000 a year over 10 years for grazing cattle.
“The vast majority of the parts of the common which will be grazed already have fencing in place as these areas have been grazed before in the past. New fencing will only be required on a small area of the common near Pollard’s Orchard.
“The common is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and home to rare grassland species. Grazing livestock is the traditional means of maintaining this rare habitat and returning to this method will provide a more effective and sustainable means of preventing the common from being overgrown by scrub.”