Walsall Council’s Countryside Services Manager Kevin Clements has been in touch. He wants me to let readers know that there’s now a booklet available which details the work proposed for Brownhills Common. This includes a questionnaire, which you can fill in to air your views on the scheme. Kevin has also written an interesting piece for the blog about the planned tasks ahead, and why they’re so important.
You can find the questionnaire and booklet at the library and other public buildings, or get them online.
This subject has been controversial, and it’s good to see the Council taking the message out to people at a series of public events in the Brownhills.
This morning (25th July 2013) there will be a drop in session at Brownhills Library where you can talk to experts about the project from 10am to 1pm. It’s free and there will be loads of material available, and an port unity to chat to the people involved.
This will be followed by an appearance by the team at the Holland Park fun day, next Wednesday, 31st July 2013 from 10:30am-4:00pm.
Brownhills Common Heathland Restoration
As part of the ongoing public consultation regarding the further management of Brownhills Common, Walsall Council has published an information booklet with support from Natural England.
The booklet includes a questionnaire and copies are available at Brownhills Library and other local public facilities. The booklet may also be viewed and the questionnaire completed on the Council’s website.
Alternatively, copies may be requested from Walsall Countryside Services, Environmental Depot, 200 Pelsall Road, Brownhills, Walsall, telephone 01922 653344 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
People are encouraged to complete the questionnaire in the booklet or online and give their considered views regarding the management plans for the next ten years.
A series of drop-in events have also been arranged for people to discuss the management work.
Brownhills Common is part of the Chasewater and Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths Site of Special Scientific Interest. The SSSI is important for its lowland heath and various wetland habitats, which Walsall Council has a legal obligation to manage appropriately.
Heathland is a broadly open landscape with heathers, gorses, fine grasses, wild flowers and lichens in a complex mosaic. Other features often include scattered trees, bare ground, acid grassland, wet heaths, bogs and open waters. These habitats support characteristic birds, reptiles, invertebrates and plants, many of which are in decline and cannot survive elsewhere.
Over 80% of lowland heath has been lost since 1800 and most since 1950 to agriculture, afforestation, development and lack of management. The UK holds 20% of the world total, with 198 hectares across Birmingham and the Black Country and much of this in Walsall Borough.
Lowland heath is a priority habitat in the UK and Birmingham & Black Country Biodiversity Action Plans, as well as the Birmingham & Black Country Nature Improvement Area, which the Government designated in February 2012.
Good quality heathland has 25-90% heathland plants and less than 15% trees and shrubs; the rest is made up of grassland, wetland, etc. Brownhills Common covers 32.7 hectares, with about 12.2ha (36%) heathland, but about the same amount as trees and shrubs.
Some management of the conifer plantations took place as part of the previous Stewardship scheme. Under a new ten year scheme, the remaining trees in two plantations in the centre of the Common would be removed and the areas (c0.5ha in total) restored to heathland. This will reconnect patches of heathland immediately to the north and south, thereby allowing larger blocks of heathland to be created. Heathland creation and restoration are objectives of the Birmingham and Black Country Biodiversity Action Plan and Nature Improvement Area, of which Walsall Council is a partner.
To compensate for the loss of these plantations, we will plant new broadleaved woodland in areas around the edges of the Common.
The other plantations will have up to 30% of the trees felled, the work being done in accordance with standard woodland management practise. We will also manage areas of broadleaved woodland, lowland heathland and grassland.
We are seeking a Forestry Commission Felling Licence for the tree work and no work would be undertaken until such a licence has been obtained nor before October 2013. Any trees to be removed will be checked for bats first, whilst no mature native broadleaved trees will be felled.
As a result of the work, additional habitat will be created for the characteristic heathland species, whilst the Common will be enhanced for the Red Deer to find food and shelter. Undertaking this work would also satisfy Walsall Council’s legal obligations and result in the SSSI achieving favourable condition by 2022.
As part of the current consultation we are seeking people’s views on the timing of the woodland management work and locations for replacement tree planting. We are also asking for people to come forward to help form a ‘Friends of Brownhills Common’ group that would become involved in the management and maintenance of the site.
I would urge people to consider the contents of the consultation booklet and complete and return the questionnaire by 14th August.
Countryside and Urban Forestry Manager