BIODIVERSITY PROJECT – KINGS GATE
Amesbury Town Council was contacted two years ago by Natural England in the hope that councillors would assist with a programme of biodiversity to create an essential corridor for rare, native butterflies to migrate between Porton Down and Salisbury Plain, enabling them to breed and thrive. Natural England had identified areas of chalk grassland at Kings Gate that would afford ideal habitat if planted and managed correctly. They offered professional expertise and believed that A303 legacy funding and involvement of the local community as volunteers would make the project possible.
The Butterfly Conservation Charity https://butterfly-conservation.org also expressed an interest in the project and local members are keen to help move it forward.
A report from Natural England compartmentalized the areas of interest for ease of management and this is illustrated in figure 1. Their recommendations: Mechanical management across all compartments. Estimated annual average cost circa £1,100 pa.
Natural England gave a preferred second management option, primarily using cattle/sheep grazing with some mechanical management in selected areas. Estimated annual average cost circa £1,800, with the possibility of agricultural and environmental support potentially generating between £1,520 and £5,200. Capital costs to provide required infrastructure estimated in the region of £60,000.
The advantages of this approach: Better biodiversity outcomes; an unobtrusive interest feature; more sustainable in terms of fossil fuel use; cheaper option if capital and revenue support is secured through grants.
Disadvantages: Capital outlay for stockproof fencing and other infrastructure (trough and water supply / field gate / styles for public access); liability of checking stock daily; restrictions for dog walking – estimated 4 weeks of the year.
The areas that would be fenced for grazing are 5 and 6. Note, the dog walking area and disc golf area would not be grazed and access to these areas will not be affected by the programme, other than additional planting, and they will remain as open public recreation facilities.
Due to financial implications, advice from Natural England at the time was to manage the land mechanically and to move to grazing if and when funds could be secured for optimum biodiversity success.
The community contribution from the developer at the transfer of land is a finite amount and would ideally help to pay for land management over a 10-year period. We have already experienced the need to replace fencing, plant hedging, secure gateways, and prevent unlawful encampments, all of which detracts from the provision of a diverse habitat for wildlife.
The Town Council was independently approached by a local farmer – Morrison & King Ltd – volunteering to manage the land on behalf of the Town, using grazing methods where appropriate. Their past/current experience in working on biodiversity projects with the National Trust, English Heritage and the MoD was considered. They have successfully supported Natural England in applying for capital grants from the A303 Stonehenge Legacy Fund to cover all costs, thus requiring no outlay from the Town Council’s budget and therefore with no cost to the taxpayer through the Precept. This funding will be directly invested in the land and is dependent on the project going ahead.
The Legal Aspect: The area of land in question is owned by the Town Council, apart from the calcareous grassland, still owned by Bloor Homes. The developer is happy to transfer the land earlier than planned, to enable us to proceed in a timely manner. We are waiting to hear from Wiltshire Council regarding their support of the land transfer.
The S.106 legal agreement (between Bloor Homes and Wiltshire Council, with Amesbury Town Council as the end user) states that the transfer includes covenants on the part of the transferee with the Owner that the Calcareous Grassland is not to be used for any other purpose than as Calcareous Grassland for the benefit of wildlife with the exception of informal public access to the extent it is compatible with the above purpose. It is believed that management of the land by Morrison & King on our behalf will satisfy this covenant.
The Natural Environment and Communities Act 2006 s.40 imposes a duty on local councils to consider conserving biodiversity in exercising its functions. The Town Council is pleased to be able to actively carry out this duty.
The Town Council has resolved to now discuss terms of a tenancy agreement with Morrison & King that will lead to the success of the project whilst ensuring the continuity – and enhancement – of public facilities that exist in this area. It is envisaged that public involvement will be forthcoming, residents and local schools will be actively encouraged to engage with this exciting, proposed project.
If you have any queries or objections, or wish to voice your support, please do so by contacting the Town Council in the following ways:
By telephone: 01980 622999
By letter: Amesbury Town Council, The Bowman Centre, Shears Drive, Amesbury, Wilts, SP4 7XT
Please include your name and contact details, as the Town Council cannot respond to anonymous representation.