THE owner of 26 coloured horses has until Saturday to remove them from Alton Town Council (ATC) land or face losing them.

The gypsy cobs, comprising young stock, mares in foal and a stallion, have been illegally fly-grazing the Greenfield Amenity Area, off Northanger Close, for the past two weeks.

It is thought some of the horses were grazing a field on the B3349 New Odiham Road and the owner was asked to remove them.

These animals were being monitored by the RSPCA, police and local authorities after two horses died in the field. Because the field had very little grass, the animals were also breaking out onto the road in search of nourishment and were being put on to ATC land to keep them safe.

But what began as an act of kindness by ATC appears to have snowballed, with the owner taking advantage of the situation. He is thought to have broken down fencing to create an access through which to transfer the horses on to the Greenfield land, which is reserved for use as a public amenity area, but which is fenced and has water for the times when it is grazed by cattle.

According to residents, the number of animals then grew as as more were added. Many are said to be thin and have sores.

Now the town council has put its foot down. On Tuesday notices were served, under the Control of Horses Act 2015, the Animals Act 1971, and the Animal Welfare Act 2006, informing the owner of the horses that he has four days in which to remove the animals or they will become the responsibility of ATC and will either be ‘re-homed, sold, or humanely destroyed’.

While ATC has already had people offering to re-home some of the animals, according to town clerk, Leah Coney, they would be handed over to an organisation that would remove the animals and organise the re-homing in an area well away from Hampshire.