A FARMER has moved to quell fears in a community that's concerned about damage to an ancient byway.

Villagers at Cheriton, near Alresford, are up in arms because David Gray, of Westfield Farm, has dug a huge crater in the roadside bank at Lower Lamborough Lane to create a new field access.

They say it's left a "hideous eyesore" beside the lane, which is believed to date to prehistoric times, and they fear the new access will lead to a change in the use of the field.

"Essentially, he acted without consultation and we think he's been a bit medieval and feudal in his behaviour," said Geoffrey Ellis, who lives opposite.

"We just think he should have had a chat with people who are concerned that it might herald a change of use for the field. It's also cut through a very old lane site."

Mr Ellis said villagers were concerned that wildlife in the lane would be affected, that exposed tree roots would be damaged by the elements, that exposed chalk would be washed down into the village and that the bank needed to be reestablished.

Mr Gray said the new access was necessary: "We had to make an entrance to get into the field with our modern machinery but we have no plans for a change of use at the moment."

He said his agent was dealing with the matter of planning permission: "I was under the impression that we didn't need it for an agricultural entrance," he added.

A Winchester City Council spokesman said the authority had been notified of the situation by residents and had sent enforcement officers to the site to see whether planning permission was needed.

Mr Gray now had until the end of October to apply for retrospective permission.

On Tuesday night, Cheriton Parish Council decided to reserve judgement on its response until it had received all the details from Winchester City Council's planning department.