CONTROVERSIAL plans to fence off and allow grazing on Chobham Common have been approved.
Following a four-day public inquiry, Surrey Wildlife Trust, who manage the area on behalf of Surrey County Council, were given the go-ahead for five temporary, electric-fenced enclosures on the nature reserve for a limit of four years.
Residents – particularly horse-riders and dog walkers – were concerned that this application would just be the beginning and that, if permission for this ‘pilot’ were granted, it would lead to extensive boundary fencing, which would be detrimental to the nature of the common.People will see the fencing start to go up immediately
But the inspector has ruled that the trust would have to submit a new application if it intends to expand the fencing or implement another scheme in future.
As part of its land management exercise, SWT have agreed to the conditions attached to the inspector’s approval, which will be kept under close scrutiny and reviewed yearly.
These include the number of the trust’s Belted Galloway cattle, without calves, permitted to graze, which will only take place during March through to October. Outside the designated period, the fencing will be removed.
Access will be maintained where footpaths and informal paths occur with gates that can be used by horse riders, and fence lines will not cross any regularly used or agreed horse-riding routes or public bridleways.
Senior ranger Steve Fry said: “The trust is eager to continue to listen and respond to visitors’ comments and remain actively engaged with all members of the Chobham Common Liaison Group. Hopefully visitors will enjoy seeing the cattle, as they did through the 1990s and benefit from the improvement to the wildlife on the Common.”
SWT area manager David Body added: “We held a long consultation period (about three years) to see what the public had to say and this scheme came back as the most popular.
“We also consulted horse-riders beforehand so we didn’t cross any bridal paths. The areas selected are quite steep with tough grasses and not where people would go riding.
“People will see the fencing start to go up immediately – in fact the posts have already been put in place
– with the view to introduce the cattle laster this month.”