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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 July, 2004, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Unruly sheep face nuisance bans
Herd of sheep
Villagers say the sheep are a nuisance
Anti-social behaviour orders designed to crack down on teenage tearaways and unruly neighbours may soon be used against shepherds and their sheep.

Forest of Dean Council in Gloucestershire is considering using the orders to force the owners of free-roaming sheep to behave more responsibly.

The shepherds, known as "badgers", are allowed to let their sheep roam free under ancient laws.

But villagers claim they are a nuisance and a traffic hazard.

The badgers, who are members of the Commoners' Association, have been allowed to turn their flocks free on the Hundred of St Briavels - the forest's original name - since Norman times.

But villagers living in the 900-acre forest complain that the animals cause havoc in their gardens and vegetable patches and cause road accidents.

Droppings

They are also concerned about sheep droppings on roads and paths.

The problem subsided with the foot and mouth outbreak, in which thousands of sheep were killed in 2001.

Sheep numbers have now recovered to around 2,000, causing the long-running dispute to resurface.

A recent survey carried out locally found sheep on every main road in one particular village.

Council members are meeting on Thursday to discuss the problem after hearing that some arguments over sheep have even turned violent.

Sheep tend to gather and when they gather in an area it can end up ankle deep in sheep droppings
Tony Wisdom
Villagers claim angry Commoners have threatened or attacked them and damaged their homes and property because of the complaints.

They say tyres have been slashed and cars sprayed with paint stripper.

Forest of Dean District Council spokesman Tony Wisdom said the problem was worst in the villages of Parkend and Bream , where the dispute had been going on for "generations".

He told BBC News Online: "It is known that people go around cutting fences, for example. so the sheep can get to fresh grass and so on but the problem is getting enough evidence to prosecute them."

He said: "They create a revolting mess. Sheep tend to gather and when they gather in an area it can end up ankle deep in sheep droppings.

One year we spent 12,000 clearing up droppings, which had to go onto the council tax bills."

"We have an agreement with the sheep badgers at the moment which includes a provision that they will clear up the mess.

"The problem is there are one or more rogue badgers."

Commoners' Association secretary Mick Holder told the Daily Telegraph the problem seemed to concern shepherds who were not members of his association.

He said there had been reports of bad behaviour by one particular shepherd, who had since been expelled from the organisation.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jon Kay
"The shepherds are nervous"



SEE ALSO:
Villagers' tax protest over sheep
10 May 04  |  Gloucestershire
Concern at rise in sheep thefts
23 Aug 03  |  Bristol
Sheep feud prompts action
10 May 02  |  England


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