Jilly Cooper: 4x4s will rape lovely countryside

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Plans to allow more 4x4s on to Swinton Park's grounds will spoil the sanctuary of the Grade II-listed North Yorkshire estate, says author Jilly Cooper.

The 79-year-old has attacked the Earl of Swinton over plans to let more off-roading vehicles drive across the grounds.

Cooper said: "It just seems tragic. There's a lovely wood here and those wretched 4x4s will just be crashing around and spoiling a sanctuary. Surely Swinton Park can find plenty of other open spaces to impress their clients with these vehicles rather than raping lovely woodland?"

And the countryside protection campaigner isn't the only person to protest about the plans. Others have complained to Harrogate council, claiming the move will destroy the tranquillity of Nutwith Woods, which is part of the Nidderdale area of outstanding national beauty, and drive wildlife away.

However, Lord Masham hit back, saying that he was "bemused as to why it's got anything to do with Jilly Cooper".

He said: "She doesn't live in the area. I think people are worried but I don't share those concerns. I'm a responsible landowner and if there was an issue, I would back off."

Swinton Park has permission to run off-road courses 28 days of the year, and the earl said that no new tracks would be created if that were to increase. The company that runs the courses said it focused on responsible driving at speeds of about 5mph.

A decision will be made by the council next month.