I haven’t forgotten the issue of Brownhills Common and the heathland restoration works, and nor will I let it slip – but the voice of the conservationists deserves to be heard properly. Most of the points raised by those opposing the project are effectively and precisely dealt with by the experts, and they should be listened to. With that in mind, Walsall Council and the Countryside Services team are unveiling displays, publicity materials and public walks to explain the issues involved.
With this in mind, I thought I’d draw readers attention to a display currently erected in Brownhills Library at the Parkview Centre in Brownhills. Here you can find out what’s planned and what the options are for undertaking the work.
Please take the opportunity to approach this with an open mind and explore both sides, not just the scaremongering. If you don’t listen to me, listen to a real wildlife enthusiast and nature lover like Chaz Mason. I’d say that neither I nor Chaz are generally considered fans of Walsall Council, but on this, they have a point.
Here’s Walsall’s latest press release on the subject.
Have your say on Brownhills Common restoration
Countryside lovers, supporters and visitors are being urged to find out more about plans to boost historic heathland at Brownhills Common.
Management plans for the next decade at the popular countryside site are currently on display in Brownhills Library.
People are being encouraged to have a look at the display, give their views and raise any questions they might have – particularly in light of concerns raised so far about the felling of trees at the common.
There will also be a public meeting and a series of guided walks arranged.
Brownhills Common is part of the Chasewater and Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The SSSI is important for its lowland heath and various wetland habitats, which Walsall Council has a legal obligation to manage appropriately.
As part of a ten-year Environmental Stewardship agreement between Walsall Council and Natural England, young trees and scrubs will be removed from open areas of existing heathland and pre-determined areas of conifer trees, scrub and bramble will be removed and restored to heathland.
The site is characterised by lowland heathland, which is incredibly rare, with just 198 hectares remaining across Birmingham and the Black Country.
This extension of heathland will ensure plants and wildlife continue to thrive and will also encourage red deer to find food and shelter.
Heathland habitats cover around 12.2 hectares of Brownhills Common with the rest made up of woodland and other habitats including grassland, bramble, scrub, weedy areas and paths.
Under the proposals the area covered by heathland plants would rise from 36 to 60 per cent by 2022.
Tree felling is due to start this Autumn, and any trees to be removed will be checked for bats first.
Assurance has also been given that no mature native broadleaved trees will be felled.
This work will result in slightly less than half of the woodland area being removed and about 7.3 hectares of heathland restored.
Options for the work include felling some trees each year or more in fewer years or clearing areas at once or gradually over a number of years.
Councillor Anthony Harris, portfolio holder for leisure and culture with Walsall Council Coalition, said: ‘People understandably become very anxious when there is a suggestion of tree felling.
‘But the last thing our countryside services team would support is something that would be detrimental to such an important site. They are passionate about Walsall’s green spaces and committed to ensuring their future.
‘The proposed tree felling and heathland extension is entirely for the benefit of Brownhills Common and it is vital that everyone who cares about the site understands this.
‘I urge people to take the time to see the display, find out all the facts and ask the experts if they have any questions or concerns.’
Lowland heathland has declined significantly over the last two centuries and in England it is estimated only one sixth of the heathland present in 1800 remains due to various factors including agriculture and development.
It is the primary habitat for rare birds such as the nightjar and Dartford warbler and reptiles such as the sand lizard and smooth snake.
People should send their views or questions to Walsall Countryside Services, Environmental Depot, 200 Pelsall Road, Brownhills, Walsall, telephone 01922 653344 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Details of the restoration can also be found at www.walsall.gov.uk/heathlands.
Approval for the work will also be sought from the Forestry Commission.