ANGLING: A DISBANDED angling group has accused Cheshire Wildlife Trust of pricing it out of its favourite lake.
Norley Angling Association says it was forced to end its activities because of the trust's 'heartless and ruthless' attitude towards residents.
Their announcement follows a long-running dispute with the trust, which bought Hatchmere Lake six years ago.
The association says the trust refused to negotiate any form of leasing arrangements with it and handed over the angling rights to the larger Prince Albert Angling Society.
Norley's chairman, Mark Smith, said the 160 members from Norley, Crowton, Kingsley and Delamere were in a state of disbelief after being told their annual angling fee had increased from £20 to a total of £250.
'Why on earth can't Cheshire Wildlife Trust behave responsibly towards its village people, especially as they have used £60,000 of Lottery funding to buy the lake?' he asked.
'Instead of that being used to benefit local people, it's been used to the detriment of us. That's another bitter pill to swallow.'
He added: 'We have strived for many years to reach an agreement with the trust but they have publicly stated that they refuse to do business with us.'
The association used to lease Hatchmere from a private landowner. In 1998, the trust bought the lake for £75,000, 80% of which came from a lottery grant. It is a site of special scientific interest and contains rare spiders and insects.
Jacki Hulse, deputy director and head of conservation at the trust, said: 'The money was applied for to buy a site which is internationally important as a wetland habitat.
'That was the reason for the grant being given. There was no mention in the application of fishing. It was bought because it is a very important body of water in an international context, not just in a Cheshire context.
'When we purchased Hatchmere, there was no fishing interest on the lake. We decided that, in the best interests of the lake as a habitat, we would like to have the Prince Albert Society there.
'We have, over the years, discussed with the association the possibility of them having some sort of arrangement with Prince Albert but that got a bit complicated and was never resolved.
'As far as I am aware, Prince Albert is there for everybody to join - and certainly, initially, they had a locals concession rate.'
Norley AA agreed to donate its remaining funds of more than £2,500 to Norley Village Hall, as members felt the money would be used to benefit the community.
Many have joined the Bay Malton Angling Club in Dunham Massey, which offered them a block membership.