The Quantock Hills have been a partnership between people and nature for a thousand years. But there are fears that ancient partnership could be at risk, because of short-sighted penny pinching by Tory councillors.
There are reports that a £20,000 cut is being planned in Somerset County Council’s funding of the Area of Outstanding National Beauty service. The county’s contribution is matched at a ratio of three to one by the government, meaning that the £20,000 cut would equate to a loss of income of £80,000.
The chair of the Friends of Quantock, Alan Hughes, has told Somerset Labour this would almost certainly mean the loss of the three part time rangers who now work on the hills.
The rangers have expertise in essential management activities such as bracken control and the burning of heather.
Although the hills appear wild, without carefully planned management, bio-diversity and the beauty of the landscape would suffer. Much of the maintenance of the hills is carried out by volunteers, but without the rangers, this would be much more difficult if not impossible.
‘Outstanding Natural Beauty’
West Somerset Labour Party has written to Tory cabinet member Councillor David Hall urging him to keep spending at its present level. The letter says: “The county council’s spending on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty brings tremendous value for money and safeguards a priceless asset.”
Mick Lerry, Labour Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Bridgwater and West Somerset Constituency, said: “Somerset County Council are failing to understand that by spending 20K the Council accrues 80K growth in their budget for an Area of Outstanding Beauty. Unfortunately the Council is more consumed about cutting budgets, rather than looking at the outcomes of retaining expenditure”