A traditional Boxing Day hunt is at risk after campaigners organised a wheelbarrow race on the same day - meaning processions through the high street could be forced out.

Each year, dozens of horses and packs of hounds descend on Lewes High Street before heading into the South Downs for the annual drag hunt.

But this year campaigners against hunting have organised a wheelbarrow race in the same place at the same time.

The Argus: Campaigners at the hunt in 2021Campaigners at the hunt in 2021

Lewes District Council has approved a street closure for campaign group Action Against Fox Hunting's Community Foodbank Fundraiser on December 26 between 11am and noon.

This is the same time as the Southdown and Eridge Hunt usually holds its procession through the town centre.

The hunt also applied for a road closure but the application was refused by council officers. 

A spokesman for Action Against Fox Hunting said: "Our enterprising co-ordinator in Lewes has found a novel way of stopping the South Downs and Eridge Hunt from holding their hunt parade on Boxing Day.

"She has booked the road herself and is arranging a wheelbarrow race to collect for the food bank."

He said if the hunt was to turn up despite the closure not being authorised, they "will have to arrive in wheelbarrows and contribute to the food bank".

The Argus: Clashes at a previous huntClashes at a previous hunt

The Boxing Day hunts have been a controversial topic in the town for several years as campaigners and saboteurs line the streets in a bid to stop the proceedings, often erupting into clashes and police arrests.

In the past it was a fox hunt but this has been illegal for more than a decade.

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Participants now hold a drag hunt which is legal and involves tracking an artificially laid scent in the countryside with hounds instead.

The Argus: The hunt outside the White Hart HotelThe hunt outside the White Hart Hotel

The Southdown and Eridge Hunt has now applied for a road closure in the same location at the earlier time of 10am to 10.30am in a bid to avoid the campaigners blocking the road.

But Action Against Fox Hunting has also applied for an extension to its road closure between 9am and 11am. Both requests are currently in consultation.

Lewes residents are divided over the issue. Jo Gander said: "I don’t necessarily agree with the hunt but what happened to tradition? Are we all becoming a society where we bow down to idiots?"

Nigel Lee said: "It’s been a tradition for as long as I can remember, just another nail in the coffin for country folk." 

But Angela Fisher said: "Tradition is fine but not when it's basically a 'celebration' of a barbaric act."

Last year Lewes District Council received two applications for road closures, one from the hunt group and one from Action Against Foxhunting.

The Argus: A stand off at a previous hunt in LewesA stand off at a previous hunt in Lewes

Councillor Johnny Denis said: "Following a consultation with statutory agencies, both events were offered a road closure in the town on Boxing Day in separate locations.

"Guidance from Action Against Fox Hunting was carefully considered in the processing of these applications, as was the national legislation under which all road closure applications must be handled.

"The issuing of a road closure is not an endorsement of an event. We would ask anyone who is planning to attend either event to do so peacefully."