THE OWNER of 7,000 acres on Exmoor has withdrawn access to footpaths on their land in a protest against the Government's impending ban on hunting with dogs under the Hunting Act, which takes effect on February 19th 2005.
The move by the Badgworthy Land Company (BLC) prevents access to an area known locally as "Snowdrop Valley", a wooded riverside glade near the village of Wheddon Cross that last year attracted about 6,000 visitors.
BLC, a landowning company with strong hunting links, has written to Exmoor National Park informing it of the decision, which has raised concerns among some local businesses that it could hit the winter economy on Exmoor.
The company's directors apologised "to those local people that are affected by the decision" but added: "We would also point out that their plight is minor compared to the many hundreds of people on and around Exmoor whose whole life and livelihood is threatened [by the hunt ban]."
Tom Yandle, the company chairman, who also chairs the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, said: "I'm sorry for any local people who are going to lose money. But we feel we have to make a point."
Exmoor National Park said it could not intervene because the land was privately owned.