Common sense

PUBLISHED: 11:19 20 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:05 06 May 2010

SIR, — Several highly-emotive letters have appeared in recent editions of the Herts Advertiser, mainly from residents in the East Common area, concerning the management of Harpenden Common and the role of the Town Council and Countryside Management Servic

SIR, - Several highly-emotive letters have appeared in recent editions of the Herts Advertiser, mainly from residents in the East Common area, concerning the management of Harpenden Common and the role of the Town Council and Countryside Management Service (CMS). Many of the correspondents complain of the felling of trees near East Common, but do not touch on the real issue which is how the Common should be managed.

For centuries the common was grazed and few trees would have been present. Since the war grazing livestock have largely disappeared from the county and this has made grazing difficult and allowed numerous trees to get established on common land across the county. The question is, do we wish such historic landscapes to be preserved and the ecosystems they support, which requires active management, or do we allow all commons to convert to woodland, as assuredly they would - see the Broadwalk experiment at Rothamsted where a strip of untended land has converted to mature woodland over a number of decades?

Britain has obligations under the 1992 Rio Biodiversity Convention and these have cascaded down to county action plans. Within Herts, efforts are made to protect a number of habitats which are under threat, common land being one of these.

The letter from the Drysdales (March 6) gives information on the numbers and sizes of the trees removed by the tree contractors, from which it is clear that this is recently-established woodland. They complain about the loss of habitat to woodland birds and insects without reference to the loss of wildlife resulting from the forestation of part of the common which would have supported flora, insect, and other bird species. To berate Cllr Chichester-Miles in his role as chair of the Town Council's Environmental Committee because he is a lay person is unfair, as councillors are elected on the basis of their willingness to stand for public office and the system does not provide for experts in all the fields served by the council.

Another correspondent Rhoda Harrison comments that "ragwort is highly toxic to all species, including man". Has it escaped her attention that man is not a grazing animal. Contrary to what she writes, ragwort is poisonous only to equines, not to man, and needs to be controlled, not eradicated. I have yet to see ragwort on the common, and if present, is not a major problem

The Town Council provided the opportunity for the residents of Harpenden to comment on the plans for the management of the Common and have apparently actively consulted those at East Common - although I could argue whether their comments should have more sway than those of us other residents of Harpenden, who equally pay our council tax and have access to the Common. Our local councils and CMS are working on our behalf, and deserve our support, rather than the slagging off they receive from persons with very narrow agendas.

ROGER THORNHILL,

Ambrose Lane, Harpenden.

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