A group of horse owners have been ordered to remove their animals from public land in a seaside town or face the prospect of losing them.
About eight horses are currently grazing in the council-owned field next to the Eastlea housing estate in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland.
Now their removal has been ordered as part of an action plan launched by the county council to tackle problems caused by unauthorised grazing and tethering of horses on public open spaces.
The owners have been told that if their horses are not removed from the field, the animals will be taken away and impounded by bailiffs.
The action is part of a crackdown on irresponsible horse ownership in south east Northumberland, which the council says is leading to some horses running loose or being abandoned, and others causing problems after being tethered without permission on public land.
One of those affected by the clampdown in Newbiggin is Linda Melvin, 43, who lives in Eastlea and has three horses in the field.
She said: “We have been told they have to be taken off by next Monday or the council is going to lift them. We would then have to pay £2,000 per horse to get them back, otherwise, if they can’t sell them, they will probably end up in the knacker’s yard.
“We have been getting letters about this and have had to have our horses micro chipped and passported. We have been told to remove them, but there is nowhere else for us to put them. They are doing no harm and have been there for years.
“We would like a meeting with the council to talk about this, and ask how much it would cost to let the horses graze somewhere. We really fear we could lose them.
“I love my horses and so do my two children and three grandchildren.”
The problems being caused by irresponsible horse owners in south east Northumberland were raised in the House of Commons this week by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery.
He said animals were “being tethered to almost every unoccupied blade of grass“ in his constituency, and maintained there had been several incidents when horses were neglected or left to run wild in the Ashington and Newbiggin areas.
Yesterday a county council spokeswoman said the action in Newbiggin was part of a wider campaign to tackle the continuing problem of horses grazing without permission on council land. “The issue predominantly affects south east Northumberland and is causing environmental damage and public safety problems.
“Our planned actions will include continued horse micro chipping and passporting, sending warning letters to all known horse owners, the possible creation of some controlled grazing areas, and the enforced removal of horses where voluntary removal is not forthcoming.”
Problems caused by stray horses, and those grazing and tethered without permission, are said to have “deteriorated significantly” this year.
Earlier this year an emaciated and distressed pony had to be put to sleep by a vet after being found collapsed on wasteland in Newbiggin.