Calls have been made for guardianship of Petersham meadows’ cows to be handed back to the Petersham Trust after a backlash against current caretaker, the National Trust.

A public meeting at Petersham Village Hall, Bute Avenue, on Tuesday, May 29, saw people site voice concerns about what they called ineffective electric fencing.

The National Trust said electric fencing was erected to protect cattle and residents following an incident where a dog attacked a cow last year, and said the decision was made following advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Hugh Brasher, son of Chris Brasher, the philanthropic sportsman who donated time and money to secure the meadow for future generations, said if the National Trust could not find a way to maintain the cows without fencing it should hand the land back.

He said: “If the National Trust does not have the stomach for it I still believe there are enough people in this room do and I still believe we can negate the risk and keep cows on the meadow.”

The National Trust said it would consider reverting guardianship back to the Petersham Trust but it would be a lengthy process.

Hilary McGrady, the National Trust’s London and south-east regional director, said: “If Petersham Trust was happy to take it up again and happy to take the liability then in terms of principle I’m happy to give the meadow back and the money they gave us back.”

She said the trust did want to maintain the meadow and protect cows, in a way both the public and HSE could agree on.

She said: “I do think having no fence is not an option for us at this time but it is something we’re willing to work towards.”

The meeting, co-hosted by Richmond Council and the National Trust, brought council officers, councillors, the National Trust, the Petersham Trust and more than 100 residents together.

The main issue was the installation of an electric fence around the cattle. Neighbours said dogs could get underneath it and attack the herd and it changed the nature of the site. Questionnaires from the meeting showed 55 per cent agreed safety should be improved but only 7 per cent were in favour of the electric fencing.

The council and the National Trust committed to identifying suitable solutions for improving safety on the meadow.

Councillor Virginia Morris, Richmond Council cabinet member for environment, said: “While we weren’t able to identify an alternative to the electric fence that suits all partners involved, we were all able to agree that the safety of the residents using the meadow is of paramount importance.

“There isn’t going to be a quick solution.”

Alternative suggestions from residents:

- improved signage banning dogs from meadow

- a more rigorous ban on dogs

- installation of a non-electric fence

- use of volunteers to patrol meadow

- growing hedging along path to restrict access