They are considered a charming animal attraction by most.
But the sheep responsible for keeping the ancient downland and chalkland of Brighton and Hove trimmed have soared in cost.
A freedom of information request to Brighton and Hove City Council has revealed that the programme has cost more than £140,000 over the last two years.
The figures include £42,000 spent on hiring hundreds of sheep at 28p a day and £13,000 transporting sheep from one location to another.
The bill rose from £67,000 in 2011 to £71,000 in 2012.
Campaigners have raised concerns about the need to enclose the sheep which is closing off historic open spaces with fences and gates.
The council spent more than £52,000 installing or repairing gates, fences and wiring including paying £5,000 last month to put up fencing in Wild Park.
In October The Argus reported how residents accused the council of “wanton destruction” of woodland after announcing plans to clear areas of Wild Park to make land for sheep to graze.
A petition against the proposals attracted more than 1,700 signatures.
The council has been using grazing animals as a more environmentally friendly way of keeping downland trimmed back since 2004 and started training volunteers to check on the sheep in 2007.
The council currently has more than 100 volunteers but is looking for up to 40 new people to manage the expansion of sheep onto more land.
It has cost the council £1,300 in the last two years to train volunteer shepherds or lookerers.
In total, council sheep graze 107 hectares at 12 different sites around the city.
David Alderton, the chair of the Preston Park and Fiveways Local Action Team, said: “When they replaced the mowing it was supposed to be a cost saving measure but I believe the mowing cost only used to be £30,000 so it’s not even a money saving project.
“You now have sheep where people have been used to walking dogs for years.
“They don’t even own the sheep, they hire them from a shepherd at Sussex Wildlife Trust so at the end of the process he’s selling off the meat and getting the benefit.”
Brighton resident Sue Grimstone, who made the information request to the council, said she was surprised by the figure.
She said: “It does seem like an awful lot of money.
“I know they want to put some sheep in new areas and they want to fence a lot of open spaces with permanent fences.”
Talking point: To what extent is the environmental benefit of grazing sheep on Brighton and Hove's grassland outweighed by the financial cost? Or is it a price worth paying? Share your views by commenting below or email The Argus letters pages firstname.lastname@example.org.
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