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Superintendent's Update for August to September 2018

Report of the Superintendent of Epping Forest.

Minutes:

The Committee received a report of the Superintendent of Epping Forest summarising the Epping Forest Division’s activities across August to September 2018.

 

Budgets

The Superintendent reported that two years of DEFRA grant aid were still awaited.

 

Weather

The Superintendent reported that there had been some difficulties with the rain gauge at High Beech and, as such, recordings for 1st-3rd September were unavailable.

 

A Verderer questioned the constant problems around water levels on Wanstead Flats and whether water would therefore continue to be pumped here. The Superintendent reported that without this action the lakes would dry up. He added that the Environment Agency had licensed abstraction until 2022 and that harm would be caused to the wildlife and to the Forest’s reputation should this pumping cease. There were, however, plans for a more sustainable system to address the matter going forward.

 

Forest Services

Fly-Tipping

Members were informed that incidents had fallen to 49 over this period compared to 109 over the same period last year. Roadside fly-tipping accounted for 73% of all incidents which was possibly a reflection of the success of gating the carparks. Builders waste continued to make up the most waste deposited in this way.

 

Rough sleepers

The Superintendent reported that 5 camps had been found in various areas in this period.

 

Licences

A total of 53 Licences had been issued in the period reported which had generated an income of approximately £47,000. The Superintendent reported that an extension of Bury Road Compound had been approved.

 

Unauthorised Occupations

Members were informed that two of the three traveller incursions during the reported period had been cleared within 3 hours.

 

Deer Vehicle Collision

The Superintendent reported on 9 deer vehicle collisions. He added that incidents continued to occur in a number of key hotspots. He reported that a local group had recently held a roadside campaign to increase driver awareness in the affected areas and that the City Corporation had facilitated the use of Essex Safety partnership illuminated signs visible at key times for deer collisions.

 

A Member questioned whether Officers were working alongside Highways on this issue and had held discussions around making certain hotspots such as Thornwood Road 40mph as opposed to 50mph zones given the ongoing safety concerns for both drivers and animals. The Superintendent reported that Officers would be campaigning hard for further speed restrictions in hotspot Epping areas as part of the new Forest Transport Strategy.

 

Heritage; Landscape and Nature Conservation

Biodiversity

The Superintendent reported on treatment of Japanese Knotweed, the discovery of a small family (including juveniles) of Leisler’s bat on Warlies Park and a breeding colony of Ivy Bee on Warren Hill.

 

He went on to inform Members that the Office for National Statistics had published an online interactive map, allowing users to find out how much pollution is removed by vegetation in their area, and how this is valued in avoided health damage costs. The Chairman requested that Members be sent the link to access this website.

 

Agri-environment Schemes

Members were informed that preparation for the Countryside Stewardship Application for 2019 was continuing and was expected to bring with it come interesting challenges.

 

Grazing

The Superintendent reported that 29 cattle had been grazing the new Chingford Plain to Bury Wood loop since the beginning of September. The Sunshine South new loop was grazed with 12 cattle.

 

A Member commented that she had seen a recent piece on television about the introduction of Water Buffalo to help control pennywort weed and questioned whether this might also be considered for the Forest.

 

Land Management

Town & Country Planning

The Superintendent reported that Epping Forest District Council had submitted their Local Plan on 21 September 2018. In the meantime, the interim Mitigation Strategy had been agreed.

 

A Member stated that he would be interested in seeing a copy of the letter sent to the Council prior to the submission of its Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate. The Superintendent undertook to share this with the Member outside of the meeting. He added that he had also requested a cost undertaking from the Council but was yet to receive a response on this.

 

Visitor Services

Chingford Golf Course

The Superintendent reported that the course had required a significant amount of irrigation this year.

 

A Verderer questioned the figures for 2018/19 and whether these were the annual figures to date only. The Head of Visitor Services reported that the figures presented were for a rolling annual year. She added that this would be made clear in future reports.

 

Wanstead Flats Football

Members were informed that good progress had been made around the issue of ‘playing without paying’

 

Visitor Numbers

The Superintendent reported that Visitor Centre numbers were still down on previous years due to the continued closure of The Temple. Members were informed that weight restrictions would now be in place for the upstairs of the building to prevent the floor from flexing.

 

The Superintendent went on to report that work at the Hunting Lodge had also now been completed thanks to the City Surveyor.

 

Communication and Information

Members were informed that followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were all on the increase. The Superintendent reported that one recent post concerning blue green algae had reached in excess of 21,000 followers.

 

A Member commented that, whilst this was encouraging, stakeholder engagement should be considered more widely. He encouraged, for example, the wider distribution of the Forest Focus publication. The Superintendent reported that the Head of Visitor Services was currently looking at undertaking a review of stakeholder engagement. It was recognised that this was an area that would benefit from additional Officer time.

 

Miscellaneous

The Superintendent advised on the future of St Mary’s Church, Wanstead park, which had previously considered by Committee.   Following wider debate within the community, local parishioners had agreed to take a more active role in the management of the Church rather than see an external partner take control.

 

Members were informed that 6 ‘Tommies’ had been placed in various locations as part of the ‘There But Not There’ installation to commemorate those who had lost their lives in World War 1. There had also been a World War 1 exhibit at The View telling the story of Forest Keepers who went to War.

 

The Superintendent was pleased to report that Epping Forest greenery was provided as decoration at Guildhall for the High Commissioners Banquet.

 

Supporting documents:

 


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