Reasons for objection to the sale of public land on the Quantock Hills by Somerset County Council 1) Management of the

sites for nature conservation. Large areas of the hills are Sites of Special Scientific Interest, being one of the few areas of upland Heath in the country and of National importance. The Council has for many decades managed the moorland well, entering the land it owns into Environmental stewardship both setting a good example to other owners and helping them get their land into stewardship also, ensuring that most of the hill is managed in a sustainable way. This involves working with the Quantock commoners to ensure that the number of sheep grazing the hills helps to achieve a balance, which maintains the heather moor. The AONB service also organises controlled burning of the moor across various ownerships, a traditional practice which maintains the moorland in a good condition. 2) Management of the hills for public access. The hills are heavily used by the public for walking, cycling, sightseeing and nature study. The hills are close to Taunton, the largest and County town of Somerset, and are the place where many people take a break at weekends and on summer evenings. The Hills are also a major tourist destination. While access to the moors is protected statutorily, proper access still needs to be encouraged and managed to ensure that people do not damage the hills and are directed to the parts of the hill where they will best see what the hills have to offer. Being a relatively narrow ridge, the views from much of the ridge along the top are spectacular. The danger is that use of the hills by 4x4s and motorbikes both damage the tracks and create noise in an area where people go for the quiet. It is by ownership of key parts of the Hills that SCC keeps this misuse down to an acceptable level at present. An owner who allowed these uses could encourage much more damaging access. The tracks on the hills are vulnerable to erosion when used by vehicles, particularly in wet weather. Work by SCC over many years has repaired much of this damage, making the tracks safer and easier to use for walkers and cyclists. vA change of ownership risks losing the benefit of all this work. 3) Hunting. Hunting still takes place on the hills, despite the fact that it was banned by the last Labour Government. This is deer and stag hunting which many people find more objectionable than fox hunting as they are much bigger animals and the risk of cruelty when hunted with dogs is greater than with foxes, which many regard as a pest. For those who don't have a problem with hunting itself there is still the issue that the hunt can attract 50-60 followers in 4x4s who can damage the tracks across the hills and even drive indiscriminately across the heather moorland, causing real damage to protected land. Hunting often takes place at the time of year when the ground is saturated and vulnerable to vehicle damage. The National Trust is unlikely to purchase the moorland areas as they have a policy banning hunting on their land. Given that the hunting rights on Thorncombe Hill are owned separately and not part of this sale, this would cause the National Trust an embarrassing problem as they would be acquiring land on which a third part hunted, contrary to their stated policy. Summary          Sale to the highest bidder risks an owner who has no interest in public benefit; Nature conservation interest could be damaged on land with the highest national designation; New owners could choose not to take advantage of grants from Natural England to protect the moorland; Private owners could discourage public access rather than encourage it as SCC presently does; Access by 4x4s and motorbikes could increase, together with the damage they cause; Private owners could encourage stag hunting; Tourism interests could be damaged if good access to the existing tranquil hills is reduced; Current good management of the hills in a range of ownerships by AONB staff is at risk; The proceeds of sale are likely to far less than expected by the Council and once the land is no longer a public asset it is gone forever.