Ivory tower

SIR, — I read with concern the story headlined Health-and-safety row at tree felling (Herts Advertiser, September 11). In this, a spokesperson for St Albans District Council (SADC) appeared to mis-understand the purpose of Local Nature Reserves (LNR). W

SIR, - I read with concern the story headlined "Health-and-safety row at tree felling" (Herts Advertiser, September 11). In this, a spokesperson for St Albans District Council (SADC) appeared to mis-understand the purpose of Local Nature Reserves (LNR).

While it is true that the land occupied by the Batford Springs Local Nature Reserve is owned by SADC and they therefore have a responsibility to ensure that the reserve is acceptably managed, the comment that "the management group do not have any responsibility for this area" ignores the fact that local people and groups are far more in tune with ensuring that "the special interest of local nature reserves are maintained" (Natural England, 2008). Indeed, Natural England states that, "many LNRs are managed by local community volunteer groups, 'friends of' groups or organisations like the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and the Wildlife Trusts in agreement with the local authority".

Surely here is the crux of the matter - far from embracing local knowledge and expertise, the council appears set on "management from an ivory tower". The spokesperson states that the, "management committee was informed and given notice of the work"; being "informed" is very different to being actively involved and suggests that the council always knows what is best for the reserve and for the many people who use and enjoy it.

Furthermore, the spokesperson indicated that one tree had been identified as a health-and-safety issue by local residents - why then were multiple trees cut down in the middle of summer, including pollarding of some trees which apparently, "were not considered urgent at the time but a better use of the contractor's time"?

Natural England states that "the local authority accepts a responsibility to ensure that the special interest of the site is maintained". Pollarding trees at the wrong time of year to provide work for contractors does not promote a sense that this responsibility is taken seriously by the council.

Finally, local residents have recently been asking me who cut through the ivy on an ash tree on the Reserve. It has apparently been done very professionally with the use of a chainsaw so we have to assume that this was once again the work of council contractors, presumably to make use of their time. There are numerous articles available from reputable sources on the damaging effects of removing ivy from trees - just type in "ivy on trees" in an online search engine and you will be inundated. In this case, the management committee was not even informed.

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Local authorities clearly cannot be the expert in everything. Failing to listen to local knowledge and expertise will impoverish our local environment, reduce the quality of habitat and species on the reserve and continue to raise a question as to whom the council is actually serving with its policies.


Chairman, Upper Lea Valley Group.

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