A MEON Valley farmer has criticised the South Downs National Park for overreacting in trying to protect the countryside.

Steve Parsons was unhappy that the national park slapped an ‘article 4 direction’ on 50 acres of land that he owns at Bere Farm, Soberton.

The park authority issued a press release about the direction, the first since it took over planning powers in the national park in April 2011.

It said it was worried that Mr Parsons would sub-divide the field with the fences marring the landscape vistas. The direction removes his permitted development rights.

But Mr Parsons, who has lived in the Soberton area all his life, said: “The national park misrepresented the situation. They have decided that because I repositioned a gateway that I was going to sub-divide the field. They have used their powers wrongly “They have stopped us putting stock there. They have misused the legislation. The trouble with the national park is that they have too much power. They should have come to me and consulted me. At no point was I going to sub-divide or put horses there.”

Mr Parsons said he did want to fence the perimeter of the field to stop cattle straying. “I have spent a lot of money restoring the field to meadowland from arable. The national park is wasting everybody’s money. Authority gone mad.

“They have taken away my right and I cannot even put cattle in. The park authority is jumping because a few people make a fuss. It is making us look like the devil in disguise but we have done nothing wrong.”

In a statement, the park said: “The 20 hectare field has been recognised for its contribution to local views by the Soberton and Newtown Village Design Statement. The article 4 direction removes permitted development rights for fences, gates and other means of enclosure to help protect this panorama. It does not prohibit their erection but means that planning permission would need to be sought for them before it could take place.”

Tim Slaney, director of planning for the authority, said: “The land in question, formerly an arable field, has recently been levelled, planted with grass and a new gated access created – this is quite legal but in light of the special nature of this particular landscape we are concerned that no further work is carried out without planning consent.”