AN ANGLING group which disbanded last week has accused Cheshire Wildlife Trust of pricing it out of its favourite lake.
Norley Angling Association says it was forced to end activities last week because of the Trust's 'heartless and ruthless' attitude to residents.
Its 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 shocked that their annual angling fee had increased from £20 to £250.
'Why on earth can't Cheshire Wildlife Trust behave responsibly, especially as it has used £60,000 of Lottery funding to buy the lake?' he asked.
'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 the National Lottery grant. It is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) 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. It was bought because it is a very important body of water in an international context, not just in a Cheshire context.
'We decided that, in the best interests of the lake as a habitat, we would like to have the Prince Albert Society there.
'As far as I am aware, Prince Albert is there for everybody to join - and certainly initially they had a locals concession rate.'
Instead, many have joined a club in Dunham Massey, as part of a block membership.