Owners say they have right to graze

George Smith with his son Lee and horse Stella in the field in Newbiggin he has grazing rights for, but the council still took one of his horses. GM026074
George Smith with his son Lee and horse Stella in the field in Newbiggin he has grazing rights for, but the council still took one of his horses. GM026074

Two horse owners say their animals have been illegally taken by the council and their bailiffs.

George Smith and his nephew Carl Smith were among those who found their horses had been removed from a field in Newbiggin by Northumberland County Council.

But the pair have hit out at council officials as they claim the horses were illegally taken as they have grazing rights to the land given by the former Wansbeck District Council.

George says that one of the horses taken was a six-month-old foal who had been tethered as it was too young to graze with the others, and whose mother has been distressed at seeing it taken.

George said: “I’ve had the paperwork for over 30 years to graze horses there. The council are not taking any notice of my paperwork but have admitted I have rights.

“I had to tie the foal up as it was too dangerous for it to wander around. I was completely shocked when I saw the foal had gone. The mare will have been going crazy.

“Other horse owners were getting letters about tethered horses but I never received one. I thought with them seeing my documents last year that meant they agreed I had grazing rights so there was no problem.”

Carl added: “It’s absolutely ridiculous.

“We’ve been given 14 days to get the horses back, if not they go to auction and if they are not sold then they will be slaughtered.”

Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member responsible for streetcare and environment at the county council, said: “The council has acted to remove horses that were grazing on its land without permission in Newbiggin.

“Owners with horses on the land were made aware of the impending action through notices erected on site, and notices posted directly to them over the course of the last six months.

“The council has also provided two grazing paddocks in Newbiggin and invited the owners of unauthorised horses on council land to enter a licenced grazing scheme on these paddocks for a small weekly fee. To date eight horse owners have taken advantage of this scheme.

“The council is aware that some owners of the horses recently removed from land at Newbiggin claim to have been given a right to graze by the ex-Wansbeck District Council, but the county council has failed to find any evidence of such an agreement, and the horse owners have failed to provide such evidence.

“If evidence of a right to graze is provided and substantiated, the council will return any horses that are covered by such an agreement.”

He added: “If horses continue to be placed on council land without permission it is the council’s intention to undertake further seizures.

“The council appeals to horse owners to either enter the licenced grazing scheme, or to make other arrangements to graze their horses where they will not cause an environmental nuisance or public safety hazard.”