THERE are growing calls for a group set up to deal with issues affecting free roaming sheep in the Forest of Dean to be re-established.

The running of sheep through public land is a Forest tradition dating back more than 800 years, and there are around 45 registered commoners in the district.

The sheep liaison group was set up after the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 to discuss and deal with issues affecting the animals.

This group is made up by representatives from the Commoners’ Association, Forestry England, the Forest District Council, Gloucestershire County Council and the police.

The Commoners Association, which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the tradition of free roaming sheep in the Dean, is calling for the group to be re-established with an independent chairman as the group stopped meeting.

General secretary Mick Holder said the association voted unanimously at their annual general meeting on December 2.

“Members were asking if they wanted to resurrect the sheep liaison group meeting or not. There was a consideration for a long time to step out of it.

“This is where we collect all the dead sheep from the Forest. We get notifications from Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

“It was set up by Defra initially as a thank you to the Commoners Association for our involvement or handling of the foot and mouth cull in 2001.

“We took over that cull from the Army, the police and several groups that tried to do it and couldn’t. What is really important for this group to run successfully is we’ve got to have a chairman who is totally independent. Not somebody who is on the Commoners side or the Forestry side or the council side.

“We need a person from the general public who is interested in the wellbeing of the sheep and the Forest of Dean.”

The Gloucestershire County Council’s representative Terry Hale (C, Drybrook and Lydbrook) said he too is supportive of these proposals.

“We’ve been allocated funding from the Coleford Partnership to finance whatever we need to alleviate and get the sheep liaison group up and running with the other bodies,” he said.

Anyone wishing to put themselves forward as a candidate to become the chairman or who needs to report issues with free roaming sheep can contact Mick Holder at [email protected] . For more information visit their website here .