Seven horses face slaughter as council forced to enact environmental law over grazing land in Thetford

Alan Wilson on Barnham Cross Common with one of his horses.

Alan Wilson on Barnham Cross Common with one of his horses. - Credit: Archant

A man who has grazed horses on a common for more than 40 years is facing having his current crop slaughtered after a council was forced to bring environmental law into action.

Alan Wilson, 65, of Canons Walk, Thetford, has kept horses on Barnham Cross Common since the 1970s, and currently has seven grazing at the site.

But the common's Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status means that Thetford Town Council are required to remove the horses from the common, to avoid damage to wildlife and plants.

If the council does not carry out its duty, it faces a fine of anything up to £20,000 from Natural England.

And the impending introduction of the Control of Horses Bill, which comes into effect on May 26, means the town council have the right to sell or dispose of Mr Wilson's horses.

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With only a few of the horses chipped, the town council will have to slaughter the animals. Only chipped horses can be sold.

Mr Wilson, who used to be a costermonger in Thetford, said the horses' slaughter would 'destroy' him.

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'I have always kept horses and I feel like these laws are like everything - the minority abuse it and ruin it for everyone else.

'I respect the fact that the council have a job to do but I love horses and I've had them all my life.

'I broke down having to put one down last week and the thought of the others being killed just slaughters me,' he said.

Mr Wilson said he had tried to find a new home for the horses, and spoken to horse welfare charities, but was unable to find anyone to take them on.

A spokesman for Thetford Town Council said it had issued a notice to quit to Mr Wilson.

'As this site is designated SSSI, Thetford Town Council has a remit to Natural England to safeguard the area and the different species of plant life on the common. Failure to do so could result in substantial fines,' he said.

The issue will be discussed at a meeting of the council on Tuesday, where the method of removal and disposal will be determined, the spokesman added.

Can you provide a home for Mr Wilson's horses? Contact him on 07879 837395.

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