A KEEN rambler says controversial plans to introduce wild ponies will be “neigh bother” at a South Tyneside beauty spot.
Bill Grieves is all for South Tyneside Council’s plans to introduce Exmoor ponies to the nature reserve at Cleadon Hills, next to Cleadon Village, to help preserve the area.
However, some dog walkers think the idea, which was first mooted in November 2011, would cause problems not only with their pets having to be kept on a lead, but for the safety of the ponies.
Mr Grieves, from Westoe, South Shields, and a member of the Newcastle Radio Ramblers has different ideas.
The 72-year-old said: “I honestly don’t see why there would be a problem with the ponies and I think it would be lovely for the area. This already happens in many places across the country.
“I think it’s the word ‘wild’ which is perhaps causing people alarm, but free-range hens are technically wild and nobody panics about them do they? Ponies are very friendly once they get used to you but, for the most part, they are quite shy so would probably run off anyway if they saw someone coming.
“I don’t think they’d be any bother at all. In fact I think more people would probably start going up onto the hills to be able to see them.”
Posters have been placed around the reserve to inform people of the plans and a consultation period is being undertaken.
Council bosses say that wild ponies would help Cleadon Hills flourish and deny that the welfare of the animals would be put at risk at any time.
Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for area management and community safety for South Tyneside Council, said: “The consultation welcomes the public to comment about the proposals for Cleadon Hills until March 15.
“One of the conservation methods being considered is the use of specialist ponies to graze on the hills.
“This process is proven to allow the flowers and land to flourish, an aspect that is extremely important as Cleadon Hills contains grasslands with national significance, for both its wildflowers and waxcap fungi.
“The plans have already been voiced at various Community Area Forum meetings, and the proposals are widely available in public buildings including the Town Hall.
“We look forward to hearing people’s views on their local nature reserves.”