THE LYNTON TOWN COUNCIL

Lynton & Lynmouth Town Council held a Special Meeting on 22 April 2004 at which it resolved, "To take immediate action as a matter of urgency to remove by any necessary means those goats that are currently causing a nuisance".

The meeting was called to consider the serious problem of goats trespassing and causing a nuisance in properties adjacent to the Valley of Rocks and Hollerday Hill area, where they range freely. The Council owns and is responsible for most of this land yet does not seem prepared to take the issue of managing its boundaries seriously. This is despite calls to do so from residents suffering from this problem, whose letters were read out at the meeting, as well as suggestions from Friends of the Goats and some of the Council’s expert advisers.

Friends of the Goats have every sympathy with those affected by the goats’ invasions and have worked hard to identify the root causes and come up with solutions. The main culprits in the current situation are members of the billy herd, which tend to retire to the wooded slopes of Hollerday Hill while the females are kidding and then find few barriers to stop them trespassing further. The Friends have already paid for improvements to fencing at the cricket ground, and have initiated and subsidised a fencing scheme in collaboration with residents in Longmead. They hope that this can be repeated elsewhere, and they are now working on a major survey of all existing walls and boundaries in the area. These are tasks which the Council continues to avoid, choosing instead to believe that it can deal with the problem simply by removing a section of the goat herd.

Friends of the Goats are concerned that the main resolution is far too unqualified and open-ended, and has been rushed through as a matter of expediency before the current mayor leaves office and before the Council has properly formulated its management plan for the Valley of Rocks, which it needs to take very seriously in order to comply with new environmental legislation.

The second resolution, to ask Friends of the Goats "to examine ways of redistributing surplus goats and to report back … as soon as possible", sounds positive, but if and when the Council do ask for this to be done [no formal request received as yet – 20.05.04], the Friends may well question why they should cooperate when they have been so deliberately excluded from the decision-making process and do not agree with the decision. In spite of many attempts to provide clear factual information for councillors during the last eight months, the Friends were invited to just two limited and low-key meetings, to no apparent effect. It appears that they may only be consulted now because the Council thinks they will be useful in helping it avoid the adverse publicity associated with a cull.

Friends of the Goats is a voluntary welfare organisation. Their supporters expect them to help goats in trouble in the Valley, and in that sense they will always do what they can to resolve goat-related problems. They have organised the relocation of goats in the past, when they believed it to be in the best interests of the herd, but it is an expensive and time-consuming process to prepare and carry out, and a very stressful one for the animals. Although the goats are fairly used to being near people, they do not have any experience in their wild state of capture, separation, confinement or transportation; and the long term outcome is not always successful, if, as sometimes happens, the new location proves to be unsustainable.

Carolynn Gold