Mounted field riders with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt gather in a town centre.

BREAKING: Somerset County Council will NOT close roads for Boxing Day hunts

After more than 2000 letters protesting the planned closures of public roads to facilitate three Boxing Day hunt parades poured into their offices, Somerset County Council has today issued a statement apologising for ‘misunderstandings’ and confirmed to Protect the Wild that hunts will now be meeting on private roads.


As Protect the Wild reported last week, Somerset County Council (SCC) were using powers meant for emergency roadworks to help three Boxing Day hunt parades go ahead this year.

The revelation broke on 14 December after Pip Donovan from Action Against Foxhunting (AAF) met with SCC’s highways officer and was told that parades by the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt, Cotley Harriers and Seavington Foxhounds would be going ahead with their town centre Boxing Day parades despite missing deadlines to submit road closure applications to the Council.

Donovan told us that SCC would be using Section 14(2) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act to facilitate the hunts. According to SCC’s own guidance notes on traffic restriction, S14(2) is for situations presenting “danger to the public or damage to the road”. Examples it gives include gas leaks, burst water mains, and undermining of the highway. The guidance notes also state that:

The promoter will inform the authority as soon as they are aware of the need for a closure or restriction, even if the work requiring the closure will not start immediately.


Action Against FoxhuntingDonovan told Protect the Wild that AAF had engaged with SCC throughout 2022 in order to ensure the safety and proper procedure of the Boxing Day events. Meanwhile, the hunts chose not to engage despite knowing about the event a year – or, realistically, years – in advance. And for all the anti-hunt group’s hard work, SCC snubbed AAF less than two weeks before the parades would be taking place.

Instead, according to Donovan, the council appeared to have thrown its hands in the air and accepted that hunt parades are worth facilitating with emergency legislation.

AAF said it was ‘furious’ with this decision by the Council to help the hunts and Protect the Wild agreed, saying that emergency powers were not meant to help fox hunts shut down town centres.


Taking action works

On the 16th December Protect the Wild hosted a letter calling on SCC to reverse its decision and treat hunts as they would everyone else.

Within three days that letter had been signed and sent more than two thousand times.

This morning Protect the Wild received a short statement from a spokesperson at Somerset County Council in response to our campaign:

“We can confirm that the council is not using any powers to close roads for hunt meets this year. We have spoken to the hunts identified by AAF and two have confirmed they will meet on private roads and the third will not be closing the road.

“We apologise for any misunderstandings in relation to this matter.”

What ‘private roads’ means in this context isn’t explained, but clearly will not (or at the very least should not) include town centres…



Rob Pownall, founder of Protect the Wild, commented:

“Public opinion is clearly important to decision-makers and Protect the Wild welcomes this short statement from Somerset County Council.

While we see no reason why hunts should be allowed to parade at all, we hope that following this ‘misunderstanding’ councils across the whole of the UK will recognise that any thoughts of using special powers to facilitate fox hunting will prove to be extremely unpopular and cause the protests that we have seen in this case.

Protect the Wild will continue to work with grassroots organisations like Action Against Foxhunting to ensure that supporting fox hunting will always be lose-lose.”