Firle Estate criticised over public access

A country estate has been criticised for not allowing enough access to walkers, despite enjoying a tax exemption based on opening up its land.

The Open Spaces Society (OSS) said the Firle Estate, near Lewes, Sussex, had failed to offer adequate public access, providing only "two short footpaths".

The estate received an inheritance tax exemption based on it opening up.

The Firle Estate's owner, Lord Gage, said it met "stringent criteria" and was inspected "every five years".

'Very little access'

However, Chris Smith from the OSS, said: "The big problem is that they [the estate] have managed to negotiate a deal with the government that involves huge advantages for the Firle Estate and pretty much none for the public.

"A lot of us would like to be made free of inheritance tax, but we're not allowed."

He added: "There are a lot of people who live in heritage properties in towns like Lewes who would like the same concession. In principle it's a good idea... but we've got very little access to open countryside from this agreement."

Lord Gage said: "The Firle Estate was granted a conditional exemption in 1984 and to qualify for that there are stringent criteria which have to be met with five-yearly inspections.

"Half the estate is not covered by the conditional estate which comprises 600 acres of right-to-roam land."

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