Parish council annoyed at clearing of Alban Way

Councillor criticises “butchered” Alban Way following scrub cut back.

DESTRUCTION of vegetation along part of popular walking route Alban Way has provoked further concern, with a parish council upset it was not consulted before large-scale clearing began.

Colney Heath parish council (CHPC) clerk John Dean wrote to St Albans district council (SADC) asking for the clearing of the Smallford end of Alban Way to stop immediately, following “strong” complaints from residents about the work being too drastic.

Herts Advertiser recently publicised concerns of St Albans woman, Mary Jarrett, who was “horrified at the complete destruction” of vegetation along both sides of the wildlife corridor between Smallford Bridge and the district boundary with Hatfield.

Mr Dean told SADC that the parish council was neither consulted nor involved before the recent cut back began. Mr Dean added: “This fact has greatly upset the council and local residents and users of Alban Way.”

The council felt, “disenfranchised.” Mr Dean also raised concerns about the effect on nesting birds, claiming it was an offence to damage their habitat between March 1 and July.

Daniel Flitton, SADC parks and green spaces officer, told Mr Dean in an email that council could not consult every time it had small projects or maintenance work to do on the Alban Way. It was not practical to consult on such matters as,“nothing would get done.”

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He said the tree cut back was completed before the nesting season began.

Colney Heath Cllr Chris Brazier told Herts Advertiser: “I got a lot of phone calls from people about vegetation being cut back. It really has been butchered; it has been cut back far too much.”

He called upon Countryside Management Service, carrying out the work on behalf of SADC, to be, “more vegetation-friendly.”

Jon Green, parks and green spaces manager for SADC, told Cllr Brazier by email that it was, “not appropriate to stop the work.”

He said it was council’s intention to provide a balance between a high quality walking and cycling route and a wildlife corridor on Alban Way incorporating a variety of habitats including grassland meadow, woodland and hedgerow along its route.

Mr Green said he understood the scrub clearing appeared “harsh” but would prove beneficial to users and wildlife alike in the long term.

He said tall mature scrub was removed where it was growing close to the path to keep it as open and accessible as possible, to help users feel safer as previously, the overgrown route had been dark and forbidding to some.

Mr Green went on: “Scrub along the verge is being removed and the original hedgeline is being restored and replaced with hawthorn and other native species. In time this combination of dense bushy hedges and grassland will provide excellent habitat for wildflowers, insects and the birds that feed on them.”

A council spokeswoman confirmed that no further sections of Alban Way would be cleared this year.