Call to extend protection of St Albans community meadow
PUBLISHED: 09:05 07 September 2019
Campaigners are calling for a protected wildflower meadow to be retained as an asset of community value.
Bedmond Field, off Bedmond Lane in St Albans, has been listed as an asset of community value (ACV) since 2014, but its status expired in March after five years.
The meadow has long been under threat of development by CALA Homes, who want to build stables and a road access on the site to make it suitable for horses to graze. CALA Homes has so far been unsuccessful in their attempts to challenge the ACV status in the Court of Appeal.
Dr Rosalie Callway, whose mother lives near the meadow, said: "The field has been left undeveloped since my childhood - 44 years ago!
"This has allowed beautiful wildlife to establish, including legally protected wildflower species such as the common spotted, bee and pyramidical orchids, as well as a wealth of invertebrate and mammal species including butterflies, protected bats, muntjac deer, foxes and the increasingly threatened hedgehog.
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"The field is an exemplar of nature reestablishing itself. We very much hope the council will fulfil its duty to protect biodiversity and protect this precious wildlife oasis."
After the field was made an ACV, CALA Homes fenced off all of the meadow apart from two footpaths, and put up notices saying: 'Private land, no unauthorised access'.
Verulam Residents' Association (VRA) is currently fighting to have the ACV status extended, but has met with hurdles along the way.
Chairman Timothy Beecroft said: "This case has exposed what seems like a serious flaw in the ACV rules - the owner of an ACV can, by closing it off to the public, make it almost impossible to renew the ACV status, which automatically lapses after five years.
"We are working on an application to renew the field's ACV status. This will not be as straightforward as last time, because we will have to show that the community still gets benefit from the field, even though it is now fenced off.
"We are now going through all the many applications and appeals that have happened over the last five years, to enable us to build the strongest possible argument, but I'm afraid it's not going to be easy."