PROTESTERS are fighting a last ditch battle to prevent a North Hampshire common from being fenced off.

They will be voicing their objections at a public inquiry into Hart Council's application for Odiham Common.

The inquiry starts at North Warnborough village hall next Tuesday (February 25) and is expected to last three days.

One of the leading objectors, Elynor Gilbert, said: "This is one of the prettiest commons in the south of England."

She warned that once fenced in, the common would be Government-controlled forever, and others could follow.

Mrs Gilbert claimed that Hart Council had been pushed into making the application by English Nature.

Describing English Nature as "extremely powerful", she believed it wanted to control public access to the common by turning it into a nature reserve.

Scores of trees have already been chopped down to transform the landscape.

Hart Council leisure officer Rod Auty said, however, that the fences were needed to allow cattle to graze on the common.

"This was always part of our common management plan," he added.