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We are delighted that the removal of roadside fencing across Litcham Common, seven miles north-east of Swaffham in Norfolk, has begun. With help from the Open Spaces Society, Litcham Common Management Committee persuaded Norfolk County Council to install two cattle-grids on Dunham Road, where it crosses the common boundary. This means that fencing alongside the road is no longer needed.
In 2007 the committee obtained consent from the Secretary of State for Environment to fence the common as two separate compartments, in order to graze it to improve the biodiversity of the rare heathland habitat. The consent was for ten years. The Open Spaces Society objected because we believe that commons should remain open and unenclosed unless there is an overriding need for fencing. The committee only erected fencing on one side of the road, and in 2008 introduced four Dartmoor ponies to graze the common.
With our help the committee kept up the pressure on Norfolk County Council to install cattle-grids. Eventually the council agreed provided funding could be raised. The SITA Trust gave up to £100,000 for managing the common, with contributions from Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership, the Litcham Common Management Committee and donations from individuals. In 2011 consent was given for the grids.
This is a fine example of good commons management. Litcham Common is an outstanding heathland habitat, a small island in Norfolk’s sea of intensively-farmed countryside. The common is also important for its landscape and public access to it and we feel that roadside fencing interferes with both.
We are delighted that Norfolk County Council has set an excellent example to other councils in approving the installation of cattle-grids so that the fencing can be removed. This shows that the common is special—as indeed are all commons.
In 2011 Litcham Common Management Committee won a CPRE Norfolk Award for the grazing scheme and the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership Community Biodiversity Site Award. Details of the common can be found on the village website here.