Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Virtual meeting. The meeting can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/ZSKiZQ-ErJM

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

Items
No. Item

1.

Welcome and Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Sylvia Moys.

 ...  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 174 KB

To agree the minutes of the meeting held on 15 October 2020.

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

Minutes:

RESOLVED, that the minutes of the meeting held on 15 October 2020 be approved as a correct record.

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

4.

Superintendent's Update

Minutes:

RESOLVED, that the minutes of the meeting held on 15 October 2020 be approved as a correct record.

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

4a

City of London Target Operating Model

The Superintendent to be heard.

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

Minutes:

A new Target Operating Model had been developed as part of the City of London Corporation’s Fundamental Review and was being introduced via a phased approach.  The Target Operating Model would significantly change the way that the City Corporation operated including the merger of the Open Spaces, Built Environment and Consumer Production Departments into a new Department of Environment whilst maintaining its focus on frontline services. 

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

4b

Divisional Issue/Highlights

The Superintendent to be heard.

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

Minutes:

There would be a 12% budget cut across many service areas for the 2021/22 financial year which, along with the recent loss of grant income, represented £256k within the total management budget of The Commons.  This budget reduction had been applied across the Commons based on the potential of each site to generate income.  For Ashtead Common, it was proposed to make £18k savings for the 2021/22 financial year, which was 4% of the overall budget.  The focus would be placed on income generation rather than cost cutting where possible including an increased emphasis on charitable donations.  Applications would be made for additional grant funding to support for conservation and biodiversity work and other forms of external support would also be sought, such as Section 106 income from planned building developments.

 

RESOLVED, that the update be noted.

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

5.

Ashtead Common Management Plan 2021-2031 (Draft) pdf icon PDF 4 MB

Report of the Head Ranger.

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

Minutes:

The Head Ranger provided an update on the draft Ashtead Common Management Plan 2021-2031 and the following points were made:

 

·         The draft Ashtead Common Management Plan 2021-2031 had been considered at the previous meeting of the Ashtead Common Consultative Group on 15 October 2020 and had been updated in response to Members’ comments and to reflect the results of the Management Plan consultation.  The images used within the Management Plan had been reviewed and were now more representative.  It had not been possible to increase the participation of young people in the consultation process; however, engagement with young people would be an area of focus moving forward.

 

·         In discussion, Members agreed their support for the Management Plan which would be considered for approval at the meeting of the Epping Forest and Commons Committee on 10 March 2020.  A Member advised that Ashtead Common volunteers endorsed the Management Plan but had identified concerns around the target to reduce burning of green waste by 30% by 2026.  The Member explained that volunteer opinion was divided on this issue, with some suggesting that burning be banned completely whilst others felt that burning played a role in site management.  The Chairman confirmed that he had had lengthy discussions with the Deputy Chairman on this target to consider how it aligned with the City of London Corporation’s ambitious aims for carbon reduction.  This was a realistic target which could be exceeded if viable alternatives were identified for countryside management during the course of the plan.  The Superintendent noted the potential to explore alternative opportunities for woodland products such as for fuel and hedging. 

 

·         The Member advised that volunteers had also expressed concern around dog control as proposals to introduce licensing and charges for commercial dog walkers were not included in the Management Plan.  Volunteers had

 ...  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 point was made:

 

  • The current Environmental Stewardship Scheme which provided £28k per annum to fund conservation work across Ashtead Common would end on 31 March 2021.  Work was underway to apply for funding under the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme (to be replaced soon by the Environment Land Management scheme (ELMs)) for the ten-year period commencing 1 January 2022.  Grant funding was only available for the Common as a whole, including a part not owned by the City of London Corporation, and a partnership agreement was being drawn up to allow funding to be secured for the part of the Common owned by the Mole Valley District Council.  It was intended to seek grant funding for this area under the category of low-input grassland rather than in relation to a nearby pond to maximise funding.  In response to a question from a Member, the Head Ranger confirmed that any grant funding received would be used to support the priorities within the Ashtead Common Management Plan 2021-2031, and that the wording of the Management Plan had been developed with a view to supporting a successful Countryside Stewardship Scheme Grant application.  The Ashtead Common Team was working closely with its colleagues at Epping Forest and Burnham Beeches which had significant experience in securing grant funding.

 

RESOLVED, that the update be noted.

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

7.

Review of the Annual Work Programme 2020/21

The Senior Ranger to be heard.

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

Minutes:

The Senior Ranger was heard regarding achievements in delivering the annual work programme 2020/21 and the following points were made:

 

  • The Ranger Team had continued to work to support the delivery of the annual work programme as well as responding to arising issues including vandalism on western boundary furniture.  There had been an ongoing focus on the delivery of contracts throughout the period, including annual scrub management, veteran tree management and widening of the rides.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had not been possible to continue the official volunteer programme except some small projects delivered during September/October 2020 when lockdown restrictions had been temporarily eased; however, some volunteers had participated in annual onsite nature surveys which could be carried out safely by individuals.

 

·         Oak Processionary Moth continued to be managed across Ashtead Common.  Numbers had not increased during 2020 which suggested that there might be some natural control in place on the Common and that a new approach targeting the highest risk nests in the highest risk zones had been effective.  The Director of Open Spaces Department advised that this invasive species continued to spread outside of London but that the number of nesting sites had diminished at some sites which could demonstrate a natural reaction in population dynamics as birds increasingly identified this species as a food source.  A Member highlighted a case of an individual who had recently had a severe reaction to Oak Processionary Moth on another site and it was noted that the concerns around Oak Processionary Moth were primarily related to the health risk posed to humans.

 

RESOLVED, that the update be noted.

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

8.

Impact of COVID-19 on Ashtead Common (Discussion Session)

The Members of the Committee to be heard.

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

Minutes:

The Members of the Consultative Group discussed the impact of COVID-19 on Ashtead Common and the following points were made:

 

·         There had been a significant increase in visitors to Ashtead Common during the COVID-19 pandemic as people discovered and rediscovered open spaces.  Whilst this benefitted the health and wellbeing of the local community, the increased usage of Ashtead Common had also impacted the site including a deterioration in the state of the paths.  A Member suggested that the increasing use of Ashtead Common presented a unique opportunity for visitors to express their thanks though donating time or money.  The Superintendent observed that there would be few volunteering opportunities in the short term but visitors would be actively encouraged to make donations towards the maintenance of the site. 

 

·         Another Member noted how the COVID-19 pandemic had helped people to recognise the value of open spaces and was raising awareness around how these sites were funded and maintained.  A Member suggested that the Ranger Team place an occasional article in the Ashtead and Leatherhead “Look Local” magazine to promote Ashtead Common as a visitor attraction as well as opportunities to volunteer or donate.

 

RESOLVED, that the discussion be noted.

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

9.

Questions on matters relating to the work of the Consultative Group

Minutes:

There were no questions.

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

10.

Any Other Business That the Chairman Considers Urgent

Minutes:

There was no other business.

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

11.

Date of Next Meeting

2.00pm, Saturday 25 September 2021 (Summer Walk – COVID-19 Restrictions Permitting)

 ...  view the full agenda text for item 11.

Minutes:

The Summer walk would be held at 2.00pm on Saturday 25 September 2021 (COVID-19 restrictions permitting).

 ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.