ENGLISH HERITAGE has hit back at criticism of its management of Old Sarum as a fresh round of scrub clearance gets under way.

And it has confirmed that no new trees will be allowed to grow up there.

The work has upset campaigner Mo Vines, who has accused the organisation of “getting rid of our future” by felling yew and beech saplings and holly bushes.

“It will end up like Figsbury – just dead,” she said. “I want to see variety and diversity there.”

English Heritage says it is trying to preserve the embankments, which are being damaged by tree roots, by grass being shaded out on the surface, and by rabbits.

Its ultimate aim is to restore the monument’s original character as unimproved chalk grassland, and it has the backing of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

EH landscape manager for the Southwest, Chris Bally, said only scrub was being taken out, and the work was being car ried out by volunteers from the group Friends of Ancient Monuments.

He said large trees would not be felled unless they became unsafe, but he is preparing a planning application for permission to clear more thorn, ash and sycamore.

Asked whether the work would destroy the habitat of the yellowhammers whose song is a feature of the monument, he replied that the site would be far more valuable for wildlife as unimproved chalk downland, which is a rare habitat nationally.

Mrs Vines, of Winterbourne Gunner, who walks her dogs at Old Sarum and owns a field next to it, was one of the most vocal protesters when earlier clearance work was carried out in 2008. As a result, English Heritage had to call a public meeting to explain its actions.

She said: “Local people must have a say. Old Sarum should be run by the people of Salisbury for the people of Salisbury. English Heritage is not interested in our wishes.

“When they find a reason to cut the big beeches down there will be nothing left.”

Archaeologist Julian Richards, who is drawing up a management plan for the site, said he was recommending “a lot more” scrub clearance.

“The policy is going to be not to allow woodland to regenerate naturally in places where we don’t want it.

“Primarily, Old Sarum is not a nature reserve, it’s a nationally important ancient monument and English Heritage holds it in guardianship for the nation.

“I will be working with the volunteers up there on Sunday and I will be happy to explain to people what’s going on.”

Mr Richards said he was recommending to English Heritage that a Friends of Old Sarum group be formed to involve the community in its care.