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Last Updated: Monday, 2 June, 2003, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
'Illegal' white horse completed
The white horse design
The white horse has been carved on a hillside in Cheriton
A giant carving of a white horse on a hill in Kent has been completed, despite being ruled illegal by the European Commission.

The government could face fines of up to 1m a day for allowing the design to be etched into the wildlife site in Cheriton, Folkestone.

Permission for the outline was given by the then secretary of state for transport, local government and the regions, Stephen Byers, after a four-day public hearing in 2001.

But the commission said it was wrong for the carving to be given the go-ahead because of the damage to chalk grassland.

They do not really appreciate the strength of feeling in this country about our white horses
Richard Beaugie, landowner

Richard Beaugie, who owns the land on which the horse is carved, said: "As a farmer nothing surprises me about Brussels.

"They are bureaucrats and they do not really appreciate the strength of feeling in this country about our white horses.

"It saddens me because it is such as beautiful thing."

But Green Party councillor, Klaus Armstrong-Braun, who took the case to the EC, said: "(The government) will have to repair the damage done if it goes to court and by them cocking-a-snoop and the European Commission it will not look good for them in the court of law."

The intervention of the EC came after complaints by Friends of the Earth and the Green Party that the work was damaging one of Europe's most important wildlife sites.

Butterfly sanctuary

But the artist who designed the horse, Charles Newington, denied claims it would adversely affect wildlife or rare orchids - and said the site would be a sanctuary for butterflies.

The horse was commissioned on the Site of Special Scientific Interest to mark the new millennium despite objections from English Nature, Friends of the Earth, the Kent Wildlife Trust and other wildlife organisations.

The groups feared the completion of the horse would allow the government to "ride roughshod" over European rules on building roads on wildlife sites in the future.

The BBC's Sue Nelson
"The government has two months to explain itself or rectify the situation"

White horse may be halted
08 May 03  |  Kent
Horse monument is defaced
23 Mar 03  |  England
White horses defaced by activists
28 Aug 02  |  England
20,000 restoration for chalk horse
07 Aug 02  |  England
Chalk horse for entrance to UK
28 Mar 02  |  England

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