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The Governement should sycamore rider-friendly policy !

Elstead Common

Proposed fencing and extensive grazing of
Thursley/Elstead/Ockley/Royal/ Bagmoor commons, Surrey

Michael Organe writes to Zoe Grainger, Fleet/Facilities Administrator, Surrey Wildlife Trust

Says Michael Organe

Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT)We clearly need a forum where the SWT proposals and the concerns about them can be discussed and a sensible compromise worked out, to achieve your objectives with a minimum of disruption to recreational use of the Commons

I note that SWT is "aware" of the Elstead survey but that it will not be included in the report by your consultant to be delivered by the end of 2012. As I said before I do not think that the report will be complete unless the consultant at least has the opportunity to consider the Elstead survey results. Unlike the SWT Phase 1 survey the Elstead survey is based on the intention declared in the Phase 2 Background Paper to: "Install permanent perimeter fencing with all access points maintained". As a result of this there is a far higher level of opposition and fewer "don't knows" in the Elstead News survey results. To ignore these results is not in line with the intention, also in the Phase 2 Background Paper: "Regular communication with users of the Commons, local people and organisations to ensure that current issues and concerns are known so management actions can be taken accordingly." If the Elstead News survey results are ignored this could undermine the validity and credibility of the consultant's report.

You did not respond to my request for revision of the statement published on the SWT website at: I object specifically to the following paragraph:

"It is SWT’s view that the Local Opinion Survey that has been conducted does not represent a balanced argument of all the issues; it is one sided and the wording used in much of the literature could be regarded as tendentious so as to produce a particular outcome, which undermines the credibility of any results gained. For example there has been no explanation of the reasons for introducing cattle grazing but simply a statement of the perceived arguments against. The Trust is also aware that some local residents have supported the proposed perimeter fenceline yet these views have not been posted on the Elstead News website."

My reasons for objecting to this statement are:

  • The survey itself did not represent any argument, for or against, being a request for information based on SWT's intention to carry out perimeter fencing of the Commons, rather than any of the other options presented in the Phase 1 survey.
  • The leaflet attached to the survey form referred to the information available on the SWT website and gave the website address.
  • Surrey Wildlife Trust's policies were fully available on the ELSTEAD NEWS website, with links to relevant documents.
  • Neutral articles discussing the proposals were published in the Elstead Village News Magazine.
  • Information from other sources explaining the lowland heath conservation measures were also published on the ELSTEAD NEWS website.
  • Arguments against perimeter fencing were published on the website as well but in general there was little opposition to grazing as such. It was mainly directed at fencing and self closing gates.
    Comments from the survey about the SWT plans, both for and against, were published once the survey results had been analysed.
  • The survey questions and the accompanying leaflet were available to SWT before it was issued to the public and no objections were raised.

May I suggest that a more appropriate wording should be used, in line with your email to me, e.g.:

"Surrey Wildlife Trust appreciates the efforts of the ELSTEAD NEWS WEBSITE in helping to bring the fencing and grazing plans outlined in the Phase 2 Background Paper to the attention of the public. Surrey Wildlife Trust is aware of the results of the Elstead survey and of the issues that have been raised by local residents and stakeholders. A report is currently being written by an external consultant, which includes the results and feedback of Phase II of the consultation. The Elstead survey will not be included in this report, which is expected to be received by the end of the year.

We clearly need a forum where the SWT proposals and the concerns about them can be discussed and a sensible compromise worked out, to achieve your objectives with a minimum of disruption to recreational use of the Commons. This would help to prevent the sort of misunderstanding that has occurred.

I pine for a more sensible approach to saving our forests

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