A NATURE reserve used extensively by dog walkers may soon be home to more animals – cattle.

Plans have been revealed to allow cattle to graze at Ifton Meadow in St Martins.

Shropshire Council believes the grazing cattle would help prevent the undergrowth from becoming overgrown, so could save money as the area would not need so much attention.

But the move has already caused alarm with parish councillors.

Glenn Pennington, chairman of the council, told members: "Shropshire Council would not have to maintain the area if cows were on it – this is all about cost cutting."

Cllr James Hoos said: "I'd be really concerned if cattle were allowed to roam free and graze. Young children use that area to play, and people walk their dogs there. Dogs and cattle don't mix."

Cllr Brian Herbert said if cattle were to be allowed on the nature reserve, it would have to be in fenced-off areas. "There would have to be some sort of control," he said.

Cllr Helen Williams said: "Apart from a ditch, there is no water at Ifton Meadow. How could the cattle drink?

"I'm against cattle being allowed to graze there. This is open space for the public of St Martins."

Concern was also raised at the effect cattle would have on the skylark breeding areas at Ifton Meadow, and whether ground-nesting birds at the site would survive.

Cllr Nini Mistry asked for an investigation to see if 'irreversible damage' would be done to the wildlife at the meadow if the cattle were allowed in.

"If it could be managed, and it had merits, we should look at it – after all, we are a rural village," she said.

"But it should not be allowed if it were seen to be to the detriment of St Martins."

Cllr John Stevens also wanted more information. "We do not know yet exactly what is being proposed – the detail is not there," he told the parish council meeting.

"It may be Dexter cattle and not herd cattle and we do not know the rights or wrongs of the effects on the environment. This is a valuable asset for the community. I would like to know more about what Shropshire Council is hoping to achieve."

Cllr Andrew Cast also threw doubt on the proposal. "I understood there was ragwort there – and we all know ragwort and animals do not mix," he said.

There were fears that although cattle may help keep the grass shorter, in wetter weather the meadow would be churned up.

"It's a nature reserve," said Cllr Lesley-Anne Roberts. "It's not for agriculture."

A representative from Shropshire Council is to be invited to the parish's next meeting – which will be held at St Martins Centre at 7pm on October 11 – to give councillors more details.

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