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Barnham Cross Common Update

The Town Council has welcomed the many calls and letters from concerned citizens who have showed an interest in the works at Barnham Common.  The Town Council owns the land which is a common   designated as open access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. This means that the public has a right of access that is protected by law.

Residents will probably know that the common is a site of ‘special scientific interest’ because it is rare grassland heath. The Town Council has a responsibility to comply with legislation regarding the conservation and maintenance of a site of ‘Special Scientific Interest’.   Sadly over the last 50 years the Common has been neglected and scrub and trees have colonised the heath and threatened the native species. The Town Council has a management plan for the site which has been approved by English Nature. This plan sets out how the site should be managed and English Nature provide annual payments to the council to complete the conservation work. An important part of this management plan is reintroduction of grazing animals and in 2015 consultation took place and permission was given by the Secretary of State to fence the common.

In the last few months the fencing has gone up and the removal of the scrub and trees has begun.  Over the next few years varied works will be carried out to encourage seeds that may be dormant in the soil to grow and to provide conditions suitable for natural or human reintroduction. 5 hectares of scrub have been removed over the last 5 years and a further 10 hectares will be cleared of invasive scrub and trees and this will change the landscape opening up the common.  The majority of the tree felling will take place during January, February and March 2017 after which there will be smaller scale scrub clearance on an annual basis.

Thetford Town Council has been working with PlantLife, the national plant charity, to bring this nationally significant site back to its former glory. Once this is regularly grazed it should  produce a varied grass sward and open patches suitable for many of the Brecks specialties such as Spring and Fingered Speedwell, Prostate Perennial Knawel, Spanish Catchfly, Field Wormwood and Tower Mustard.  By working in partnership with Plantlife a large proportion of the conservation work is being completed as minimal cost to the tax payers of Thetford.

The Amenities Committee have been considering all the concerns raised by residents about the changes on the common. In the new year there will be further consultation about how the common will be grazed. The Council is fully aware the common is an important country side site for the people of Thetford and would like to balance the conservation works with ensuring that the common remains accessible for countryside pursuits.

The town council wants to encourage everyone to enjoy the common and I would be really interested in your views in how we can make sure the common is accessible at the same time as introducing the grazing that is important for this rare habitat.

For further details, please contact Roz Barnett at Thetford Town Council Tel 01842 770253

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