The Dorset ground may close following a long-running dispute with neighbouring land owner

The Dorset ground that introduced countless thousands into the sport and was the training ground for Olympic gold medallist Peter Wilson may have to close, unless a long-running dispute with the neighbouring land owner is resolved. Alastair Cooper, a former equities trader turned estate owner and keen game shooter, has owned the adjoining land for the last ten years. Cooper, who learnt to shoot at the ground when he moved into the area, claims that shot landing on his ground is damaging his crops and killing his livestock and has been doing so for a couple of years.

Negotiations have been ongoing for some time in an attempt to reach a compromise, and the owners of Southern Counties have offered to buy the 60 acres in dispute for several times the market value, as well as indicating that they would be more than happy to get the lead shot removed on a regular basis.

Kevin Newton of Southern Counties faces the closure of the ground, along with the loss of the 40 jobs that the ground supports, if a settlement cannot be reached. He said: “We have been here for 53 years and we have always dropped lead onto that land, and Alastair knew that when he bought the farm ten years ago.”

The next few weeks will be critical in deciding the future of the ground, which may be forced to close before the end of the year and which would deal a devastating blow to shooting sports, both in the South West and across the country.

Sadly this is not the first instance of this kind and is the latest in a long line of disputes in which keen game shooters have been instrumental in either severely restricting the activities of or even closing down shooting grounds.