To discuss the City Commons Management Priorities for 2013/14 and Ashtead Common Work Programme 2013/14 (copies attached).
The Superintendent introduced the City Commons management priorities for 2013-14. He noted that the Committee had seen the draft proposals in January 2013. He went on to briefly discuss each of the service priorities and the management standards that staff of the City Commons would seek to adhere to. These included:
Rangering - the Superintendent stated that it was a key priority to maintain a visible public presence on the Commons.
Visitor Experience – the Superintendent noted that the City Commons had just undergone a Green Flag inspection and that the results would be available in the next few weeks.
Marketing – this was focused around Facebook and Twitter. The branding of the City Commons was currently being evaluated and will need to take account of the difficulty of marketing such a geographically diffuse set of Commons. The results of the evaluation would be shared with the Committee later in the year.
Condition Assessments – the Superintendent noted the obligation to assess the condition of City Commons sites given the receipt of government funding for their upkeep.
Tree Health – it was noted that Oak Processionary Moth was present in Kew. Furthermore, current City Commons volunteers had been designated as Tree Wardens and were carrying out inspections over the Summer to monitor the arrival and spread of tree disease. The Superintendent concluded by noting the need to study best practice from across Europe and the involvement of City Commons staff in the Ancient Tree Forum. In response to a question the Superintendent said that informal links and expertise provided by organisations such as the Ancient Tree Forum allowed the quick communication of intelligence on the spread of tree disease in areas in close proximity to the City Commons, but that there was no obligation of landowners in the immediate proximity of the Commons to report the arrival of tree disease. The Superintendent committed to providing advice via e-news on the course of action to follow if a disease such as Ash Dieback is spotted.
Consultation – the Superintendent noted that the minutes from each of the City Commons Consultative Committees were to be shared amongst the three Committee memberships.
Volunteers – the Superintendent committed to bringing a report on volunteering to the next meeting of the Committee. He noted that volunteer numbers 2012/13 had increased by 2% but that the corporate emphasis was very much on the quality of volunteer experience rather than the number of volunteers themselves.
Education – the procedures around education, recreation and events were being refreshed and the maintenance of the current number of walks had been made a Key Performance Indicator (KPI).
The Committee then briefly discussed the service priorities and management priority standards.
In response to a question, the Superintendent clarified that the term ‘psychological contract’ under the Business Plan service management priority referred to expectations over staff behaviour and staff recognition.
In response to a question regarding the branding of the City Commons the Superintendent answered that it was hoped the final branding would underline the relevance of the three charities that go to make up City Commons as a whole.
The Head Ranger then introduced the management priorities for Ashtead Common. These included:
Oak Pollards – following an incident last year the programme for veteran tree management had been reviewed. This resulted in fewer trees being worked on and it was felt that this reduced amount was more sustainable. This assumption was further bolstered by concern over tree disease and a suspicion that management techniques had caused trees stress. Consequently, a procedure had been implemented to properly monitor oak pollarding against a longer time plan.
Special Project – Crown reduction had been undertaken to achieve halo release, but the amount of reduction would be reviewed after a condition assessment.
Grazing – the current seven cattle on site was a reduction from eleven, with the balance going to market the previous week. The remainder would be moved to another part of the Common shortly. A diversity in sward height had been created during the herd’s tenure on Pheonix Field and Pine Field.
Welcoming Site – the Head Ranger noted the introduction of new signage on the Common that sought to make it clearer which paths were open to cyclists and horse riders at the various points of entry. In response to a question he replied that the new maps would be available online after they had been formally launched.
Bracken Control – the Head Ranger noted the aim to roll/mow areas restored as pasture and to maintain routes designated as firebreaks. He admitted that there as a challenge in meeting this aim given the stewardship agreement stated that the percentage cover of undesirable species including bracken should only make up 10% of the Common. He added that to meet this target the work of volunteers, grazing and mechanical methods were all very important.
Roman Villa – the Head Ranger noted that this year represented the seventh year of work on what was originally conceived of as a five year project. Work would be undertaken to ensure the maintenance of the site as an Ancient Monument, and to develop a plan for future work around the interpretation of the data that had been gathered to date.
Boundaries – it was noted that fly tipping was not a problem on the Common. A member of the Committee noted that fly tipping had been a problem on the farm to the north of the Common, and that the problem had been addressed using covert cameras.
In response to a question on the potential to link the nature and habitat conservation work being undertaken on the Common with wider sites, the Head Ranger responded by noting the current partnership working with the Lower Mole Countryside Management Project. The Committee discussed the topic in greater detail, making the following observations:
· The Woodfield area of the Common was in terms of biodiversity, now considered to be of SSSI quality.
· Physical boundaries, such as the Railway, were not that important in hindering continuity of habitat given that deer had been spotted on both sides of the track.
· There was a gradation in the immediate local area between the urban park south of the railway, northwards to the Common and to the farmland beyond.