A farmer whose pigs, miniature ponies and sheep could be kicked off land to make way for a cemetery, is keen to dissociate himself from the plan.

Hundreds of residents met on Tuesday night to oppose plans submitted to Reigate and Banstead Council to create a multi-faith cemetery on 25 acres of pastureland in Croydon Lane, Banstead.

At the meeting Andrew Compton, the owner of Hengest Farm, whose flock of sheep, 24 pigs, five miniature ponies and two horses currently graze on the fields, stressed that he had nothing do with the application and was not making any financial gain from it.

He told the Epsom Guardian on Wednesday : "I needed to clear my name. I have had people come into the farm castigating me, asking why am I doing this, why am I selling the land?

"I am nothing do with this. I have no collusion with the owners of the site."

Mr Compton has been grazing animals on the greenbelt fields in return for a peppercorn rent for many years.

He said his father moved to the farm in 1974 and they used to graze dairy cows on the fields while he has had agreements with the current owner for about two years and the previous owner for a decade.

He said: "Historically that land is our family home. We have had a lot of farm animals on the land. I’m not coming in from an outsider’s viewpoint, I’m an immediate neighbour.

"I can understand everybody is in uproar over this application regarding the greenbelt issue. I understand people’s views but I think there needs to be some balance."

He believes turning the site into a "quiet, contemplative" cemetery is preferable to the land being sold off in plots for speculative development or becoming a noisy playing field or even housing.

And he recognises the need for more cemetery space, adding: "When my parents died, I wanted them buried locally and it was a real struggle."

Mr Compton said: "It’s difficult for me to object to it because there are worse things that could go there. For me it is the lesser of the two evils they could do.

"The land is an advantage but the whole business does not depend on me using that land. That just allows me to extend grazing from what I have at home.

"At the end of the day, the loss of the land will be of some consequence to me."

Over the past 40 years, Hengest Farm has gone from being a dairy farm and sheep milking operation to a leading equestrian and pet shop.