Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Town green may be grazed under conservation plan

A CONSERVATION management plan has been drawn up for Gillotts Corner Field in Henley.

The land, off Greys Road, was granted town green status in September 2009 following a campaign by residents and councillors to protect the area from development.

It is known for its wildflowers and is popular with dog walkers and families.

Marcus Militello, the town council’s new conservation park warden, drew up the plan with ecological consultant Rod d’Ayala.

He recommends that yellow rattle seed is sown in the field in the autumn, saying this will lead to a “significant” decrease in the amount of plant growth and the cost to remove it, providing a cutting regime is stuck to.

The seed would cost about £1,500 and a harrow and seed spreader would need to be hired. Mr Militello says the main cost over the next two years will come from hay-cutting, the wrapping of bales and their removal. This will cost about £3,500 a year.

One half of the field would be cut in late July and the other half in late September and both would have an “aftermath” cut in March.

After two years, the council could consider whether to put grazing animals on the land.

Mr Militello also recommends slow replacement of buddleia and native species and planting on the western boundary of the field over the next two years.

Members of the council’s recreation and amenities committee praised the report.

Mayor Kellie Hinton said: “This is exactly why we have a conservation park warden with this expertise. We should listen to his advice.

“This is our only designated town green and we should do our best to look after it.”

Councillor Sam Evans said the report was “incredible” but that £3,500 seemed “a heck of a lot” to spend on cutting grass.

The committee agreed to go ahead with the yellow rattle seed sowing and buddleia replacement while investigating the cutting programme further.

Meanwhile, landowners have been urged to consider dedicating land as a town or village green as a Christmas gift to the community.

The call comes from the Henley-based pressure group the Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body.

It says that once land is registered as a green it is protected by law from development and local people have rights of informal recreation there. Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the society, said: “Landowners, including parish and community councils and other local authorities, can dedicate their land as a green to ensure it remains open and available for the public to enjoy forever.

“This is especially important now as green spaces are increasingly at risk of development or commercial abuse and the public is likely to lose out.

“Unfortunately, this is an under-used provision and we have few examples of voluntary registrations — we want to see many more.

“We call on landowners to present the best and most lasting Christmas gift of all to their communities — voluntary registration of a town or village green which can then be enjoyed by local people forever.”

Any landowner can voluntarily register land as a green under section 15(8) of the Commons Act 2006.

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