Bricket Wood Common land set to be fenced off for grazing of cattle

A DECISION to allow nearly a mile of fencing to go up around a common in the St Albans district has dismayed objectors to the scheme.

The Planning Inspectorate has supported the district council’s plan to enclose part of Bricket Wood Common and allow it to be used for grazing.

The common is a site of special scientific interest with areas of wet heathland which are of ecological importance. The council believes that the grazing of cattle would maintain it in a more environmentally-friendly way than using mechanical or chemical intervention.

But objectors, including local horse riders and dog walkers as well as the Open Spaces Society, are unhappy about the fencing which they fear will restrict access and enjoyment of the common.

And there is still concern that the district council did not consult fully enough over the proposal which first came to light in early 2007.

John Featherstone, county access and bridleways officer in Herts, said he had asked when consultation would take place in 2009 but it had never materialised.

“Both ourselves, the dog walkers and other interested parties have tried to give an input but there has not been the consultation we would have expected. We don’t understand why.”

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He went on: “In so far as the dog walkers are concerned, they have always had open space to let their dogs run free but now if they want to go through the compound, they are going to have to have their dogs on a lead.

“As far as the riders are concerned, the bridleway runs through the middle. It shouldn’t be too difficult but we know riders and we know horses who are apprehensive about long-horned cattle.”

Mr Featherstone added: “What hasn’t come across is that there was a financial grant involved if they got a grazing facility there.”

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said they welcomed improvements the council had made to the fencing in response to objections but they still remained opposed to the fencing as a whole..

She added: “It is regrettable that the district council failed to consult the Open Spaces Society before charging ahead with the proposals. It would have been sensible to consult the leading organisation concerned with common land to see if we could have reached agreement on a revised scheme.

“We trust that local people will keep a close watch on what happens on the common and will report any problems to the society so that we can pursue them with the council.”

A district council spokesperson said that the decision notice from the Planning Inspectorate made it clear that council had “carried out extensive informal consultations prior to the application being submitted and that it has complied with the consultation and advertising requirements.”

She added: “A sum of �1,615 a year was awarded to St Albans city and district council by Natural England for heathland restoration over 10 years starting in 2011. In addition to this they will give the district council a grant of �8,000 towards the cost of fencing and water supply.”