THE future of a 32-acre nature reserve is under threat after councillors voted not to take over ownership of the site.
Catherington Down, in Horndean, has rare flowers and plant life due to the special nature of its chalk grassland, which has never been farmed.
Horndean Parish Council has been looking after it on behalf of Hampshire County Council and the local authorities have spent two years negotiating a transfer of the deeds to the parish council.
But, in a vote, councillors in Horndean turned down the chance to take on the site because of fears of the long-term costs.
Parish council leader Cllr Lynne Evans was one of four members who voted in favour of taking ownership. She said: ‘We already maintain it and there will be further talks with the county council.’
The county council gives Horndean Parish Council £500 a year to look after the down, and about £2,000 of an £8,200 Natural England grant helps to maintain it.
The parish council has also spent money on the public open space, which is popular with residents.
Cllr Evans added: ‘We will continue looking after the down. It will stay open to everyone.’