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Landowners Meeting 15th May 1986.

Report on a meeting with Priddy landowners held at The Hunters Lodge Inn on 15 May 1986.  Caving interests were represented by Dave Irwin as CSCC Chairman accompanied by Phil Romford and Tim Large.

Dave Irwin outlined the history of events leading up to the latest revision of SSSI's on Mendip by the N.C.C.  The landowners expressed concern and disappointment that cavers have been involved in the revision and without consulting them beforehand.  They were told that the NCC would have gone ahead regardless of caver involvement or not.  They consider that the good relations with cavers built up over many years allowing access and exploration are now severely affected.

The landowners are aware that the extent of an SSSI can be extended to include land above the cave wherever new discoveries are made.  If this decision by the NCC prevails then landowners may refuse permission to dig new surface sites and underground digs. They will be opposed to any escalation of restrictions on their land usage and effect on its market value.

They were given every support and sympathy for the situation.  They were told that cavers are doing everything possible to restore the situation.  Of course, we could not give any firm guarantees as to the outcome of our efforts.

Dave Irwin outlined the proposed actions the CSCC will take subject to approval by their AGM, these included: -

1.                  Lobbying MP's, Minister of the Environment, Sports Council and CCPR.

2.                  Engage the help of specialists in the scientific and legal fields.

3.                  Combine action with other regional councils and the NCA.

4.                  To recommend that in future details of new cave discoveries and their surveys should not be published anywhere.

5.                  To set up a working party to conduct the above activities.

The landowners propose to obtain media coverage for their cause.  The meeting appeared to accept that cavers are on their side and that our interests are closely linked to their own.  To this end it looks now as if a joint action by cavers and landowners could be made to combat the problem.  Close liaison will be essential and Dave Irwin told the meeting that he would supply the landowners with a copy of his CSCC report.

To emphasise their position the landowners of Swildon's and Eastwater have decided to close their caves for an indefinite period as of 17th May 1986.  This action is to demonstrate to the cavers that they do in fact control access to the caves.  The point was raised that until the consents are signed it would be technically illegal for them to allow access.

Tim Large and Phil Romford
16th May 1986