Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Virtual meeting. The meeting can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/WWin49Iyhmo

Contact: Kerry Nicholls  Email: kerry.nicholls@cityoflondon.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Welcome and Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from David Baker, Bob Eberhard, Paul Krause, Sylvia Moys, Georgina Terry and Pippa Woodall.

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 1.

2.

Members' Declarations under the Code of Conduct in Respect of Items on the Agenda

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.

3.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 145 KB

To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 7 February 2019.

 ...  view the full agenda text for item 3.

Minutes:

In considering the minutes of the previous meeting, the Head Ranger requested that Minute 8: 2019 Grazing Expansion be corrected to read: “new fencing was being installed along the Ride side of the Common,” and that Minute 11: Review of the Annual Work Programme be corrected to read, “the upgrade of Two Bridges had been completed in August 2018.”

 

RESOLVED, that the minutes of the meeting held on 7 February 2019 be approved as a correct record, subject to the above amendments.

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Superintendent's Update

The Superintendent to be heard.

 ...  view the full agenda text for item 4.

Minutes:

The Superintendent provided an update to the Consultative Group and the following points were made:

 

·         The City of London Corporation’s Governance Review had recommended major changes to the Corporation’s committee structure which were being considered by Members and was likely to have an impact on the future governance of the management of the Common.   

 

·         The COVID-19 pandemic had placed immense pressure on the City of London Corporation’s business model and it was anticipated that there would be a 12% budget cut across many service areas for the 2021/22 financial year which was likely to affect the budget for the management of Ashtead Common.  In the longer term it was anticipated that the City of London Corporation would be introducing a new Target Operating Model that would have further implications for the way that services were delivered.

 

·         In considering the planned introduction of car park charges at some City of London Corporation Commons (although not Ashtead Common), a Member highlighted that Surrey County Council recently cancelled car parking charges across its entire countryside estate following public objections.  The Superintendent underlined the importance of supporting visitors to understand why car parking charges were being introduced and advised that other ways to generate income were also being identified including making greater use of Ashtead Common’s registered charity status.  The Chair noted that the introduction of car parking charges at some Commons would help contribute to the preservation of the wider Commons both by income generation and encouraging more visitors to use environmentally sustainable forms of transport. 

 

RESOLVED, that the update be noted.

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Ashtead Common Management Plan 2021-2031 (Draft) pdf icon PDF 5 MB

Report of the Head Ranger.

 ...  view the full agenda text for item 5.

Minutes:

The Head Ranger was heard regarding the draft Ashtead Common Management Plan 2021-2031 and the following points were made:

 

·         During August and September 2020, an online public consultation had been undertaken on the draft Ashtead Common Management Plan 2021-2031 which had 446 responses.  The consultation process identified that the majority of respondents had visited the Common more frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that there had been an increase in a number of activities including walking, dog walking and cycling.  In response to a question from a Member, the Head Ranger confirmed that 34% of those that had listed ‘Other’ as their reason for visiting had stated that they were volunteering, but that this represented only a small percentage of overall visitors.

 

·         With regard to the draft Ashtead Common Management Plan 2021-2031 the following points were made:

 

·         Nearly 100% of respondents had agreed the long-term vision statement which was proposed for agreement as follows:

 

“Ashtead Common: a place for countryside recreation and wildlife conservation where community involvement remains integral to maintaining an open space of national significance, a place that resists urban pressures and strives to protect an historic landscape and its features in a setting proactively managed to retain and enhance biodiversity.”

 

·         Over 90% of respondents had supported proposals to support biodiversity, wood pasture and ancient trees, as well as to create more firebreaks and increase the amount of bracken managed. Over 80% of respondents had supported proposals on grazing which aimed to increase the area being grazed, although this would be on a rotational basis and not every area would be visited each year with mowing also used to maintain pasture.  A number of respondents had commented on the potential for “virtual” fences and a separate consultation would be undertaken should it be proposed to introduce any such

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Countryside Stewardship Application

The Head Ranger to be heard.

 ...  view the full agenda text for item 6.

Minutes:

The Head Ranger was heard regarding the Countryside Stewardship Scheme Grant application for Ashtead Common and the following points were made:

 

  • The current Environmental Stewardship Scheme which funded conservation work across Ashtead Common and represented £28k funding per annum would end on 31 March 2021.  Expressions of interest for the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme Grant must be submitted to Natural England by March 2021, and if accepted, applications must be submitted to Natural England by September 2021 for approval, alongside a Woodland Management Plan and ten-year Site Management Plan.  Should the application for the Ashtead  Common be successful, conservation work would be funded for a further ten years, starting on 1 January 2022; however, there would be a 9-month gap in funding between the end of the existing agreement and the start of the new one.

 

RESOLVED, that the update be noted.

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Review of the Annual Work Programme 2019-20 and Presentation of the 2020-21 Programme

The Senior Ranger to be heard.

 ...  view the full agenda text for item 7.

Minutes:

The Senior Ranger was heard regarding key achievements during 2019-20 and the following points were made:

 

  • There had been a number of key achievements and updates during the 2019/20 financial year:

 

  • There had be a significant increase in visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic which was managed by greater levels of patrolling and engagement.  This had been supported by the regular mowing of the firebreak, ride and path network to reduce fire risk and provide good quality access for the public as well as increased bracken spraying in July 2020. 

 

  • There had been no volunteering or cattle grazing since March 2020 to allow rangers to concentrate on site safety and public engagement.  The apprenticeship programme had continued and Rangers had used the period of homeworking to develop the draft Ashtead Common Management Plan 2021-2031.

 

  • Work was also underway to take forward a range of work over the next six months:

 

  • The volunteering programme would resume with reduced-scale practical tasks.  A Member noted that Lower Mole Countryside Management Project volunteers had just embarked on a three-year project at Rye Brook and that after a delay caused by planning processes and the COVID-19 pandemic, a wetland scheme in Kestrel Field would commence in late-October 2020. 

 

  • Rangers would concentrate on keeping patrol levels high whilst working to improve the infrastructure across the Common, including bar-ways and noticeboards.  Rangers would also attend refresher training for wood-chipper and chainsaw use.  Contracts to clear veteran trees, open glades and thin out oaks would be taken forward during Autumn 2020.

 

RESOLVED, that the update be noted.

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Questions on matters relating to the work of the Consultative Group

Minutes:

There were two questions

 

A Member noted that a small amount of local funding had been made available for the Ashtead area by Surrey County Council and asked that the Head Ranger provide details of any upcoming funding opportunities.

 

A Member emphasised the value of encouraging more young people to visit the Common and suggested that this tie in with the volunteering programme, such as via guided walks.

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Any Other Business That the Chairman Considers Urgent

Minutes:

There was no other business.

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Date of Next Meeting

Members to agree the date of the next meeting.

 ...  view the full agenda text for item 10.

Minutes:

The next meeting of the Ashtead Common Consultative Group would be held in February 2021 and the final meeting date would be provided to Members shortly.

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.