COUNTRYSIDE campaigners have added their voice to concerns over the future of Newtown National Nature Reserve.

Chair of the Isle of Wight branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Alex Haig-Thomas, said it was important 'large numbers of visitors (particularly dog walkers) were not encouraged to tramp through the village' lest they spoil the tranquility of the area and disturb the wildlife, particularly the rare birds that nest there.

"I feel the special character of Newtown has been overlooked amid an apparent drive to promote it to visitors without regard to that character," he said.

"More needs to be done to emphasise Newtown is a nature reserve and they should behave accordingly."

As reported, National Trust volunteers — two of whom were sacked after objecting to plans to revamp the visitor centre — have raised concerns about the 'commercialisation' of the reserve and warned it site cannot sustain ever increasing visitor numbers.

The trust's general manager for the Isle of Wight, Tony Tutton, reiterated the trust did not market Newtown in the same way as other sites, such as The Needles and Bembridge Windmill, and said it only advertised nature themed events and family activities.

Speaking after articles appeared in the national press last week, Mr Tutton said the issue had been blown out of proportion and people were worrying unnecessarily.

"I've worked here for 31 years and there have been busier, and less busy, periods. I think the tranquility is still there. If you look at Newtown in five years it won't have changed very much, but we will have engaged with more people and shown them how to behave responsibly," he said.

Mr Tutton said the trust could not stop people visiting Newtown but it could engage with them, to teach them about the importance of caring for the reserve and its wildlife.

He said in an email to Mr Haig-Thomas there was 'not room' for more people, but clarified his point to say there was not room for more cars.

New signs are due to be placed around the reserve, reminding visitors to take care and telling dog owners to keep their pets on a lead.