We have objected to the proposed fencing of Kingwood Common, near Nettlebed in Oxfordshire. The society is consulted by law on all applications for works on common land, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.
The society has written to the Planning Inspectorate to object to the plans submitted by the Nettlebed and District Commons Conservators to erect 2,228 metres of fencing enclosing 25 hectares of common land, in order enable cattle to graze there for two periods of six to eight weeks.
Says our case officer, Nicola Hodgson: ‘We have objected because the applicants have failed to answer the queries or meet the concerns we have expressed over a long period. In our view, they have not given proper consideration to alternative proposals to fencing the common in order to reintroduce grazing there. The common is well used for walking, riding and cycling and we believe that these interests will be adversely affected by the proposed fencing.
‘In addition, we have said that the proposals conflict with the Conservators’ duty, under the Nettlebed and District Commons (Preservation) Act 1906 to “keep the commons unenclosed and unbuilt on as open spaces for the recreation and enjoyment of the public”. The Act only allows enclosures for 21 days a year and for not more than four consecutive days.
‘The purpose of the Act is to secure the open space primarily for recreation. Fencing is bound to conflict with that aspiration.
‘The conservators have failed to provide justification for this large-scale, permanent fencing, particularly when they propose only to graze the common for short periods. Although some of the fencing can be hidden in the vegetation, much of it will be visible and an eyesore in this lovely part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It will create narrow, enclosed paths instead of the extensive open areas we enjoy at present.
‘We have suggested that the Conservators experiment with small pilots, which they can do for short periods and small areas without the need for consent under the Commons Act. Then they can test whether their plans will produce the desired effect and also test public opinion.
‘Unfortunately, there has been insufficient consultation on the proposals and as a result they are extremely controversial. We hope that the application will be rejected and that the Conservators will think again,’ Nicola declares.