Police alert after Forest of Bowland fences targeted

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POLICE are set to increase patrols in some parts of the Forest of Bowland AONB after a spate of incidents in which fences were cut.

Officers from Clitheroe Police are also urging farmers and landowners to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police.

In the past year, there have been several reports of incidents of fence cutting in some parts of the scenic forest. In some cases large expanses of fencing have been vandalised causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

The use of fences, along with hedgerows, walls, banks and ditches as boundaries are an integral way in which the land is managed, and both livestock and habitat management require dependable fencing. The Bowland Fells are designated under national and international legislation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Areas (SPA). Stock fencing is essential for the management of the grazing of these sensitive areas and for safeguarding internationally important vegetation and bird communities.

Disturbed by the recent vandalism, Mr Jon Hickling, Conservation Adviser for Natural England, said: “The fences that divide areas of the Bowland Fells SSSI into grazing units are of paramount importance in the management of the land, in particular the restoration of sensitive moorland plant communities that have been heavily grazed in the past.

“The recent spate of fence cutting activity has undermined the good work of many tenant farmers who are trying to manage sensitive plant communities more sustainably.”

The impacts of these incidents can be extensive: the livelihoods of farmers and the critical management of internationally sensitive moorland habitats with their associated bird communities are at risk. Not forgetting the impact it can have on the animals themselves, who are roaming away from what is a carefully managed environment, leading in some cases to injury and death.”

PC Carl Chew, who has been investigating the incidents, said: “Over the past 12 months, there have been 10 incidents causing thousands of pounds of damage to fences in the Wyresdale and Chipping areas.

“We are working closely with the landowners, which include United Utilities, Lancashire County Council and private estates to deter vandals and prevent any further damage. We will also be carrying out increased patrols in vulnerable areas.”

“I urge landowners to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police.”

Anyone with information about the incidents or who wants to report suspicious activity can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.