HURST MEADOWS ADVISORY GROUP Meeting at 7.30pm on Thursday 27 August 2020 via Microsoft Teams Video Conferencing.
Present: Cllrs Stephen Hand (Chair), Allan Brown, Dave Evans, Claire Majsai, Malcolm Llewellyn.
Stephen Baldey, Michael Nailard, George Judd, Hamish Raby & Sarah Groom (Clerk).
1. Apologies for absence: Apologies for absence were received from Helen Brangwyn, Rachel Felton, Patrick Howarth, Sonia Mcdavitt, Donna Willis, Tony Whitbread and Martin Sadler.
2. Declarations of interest: The Chair felt this item was not relevant to this agenda but asked if anyone has any financial interests in matters discussed, they should declare it at the time.
3. Minutes of the meeting of the Group 29 October 2019
The minutes of the meeting held on 29 October 2019 were agreed. It was noted that the meeting due to be held on 5 March 2020 was cancelled. The Chair explained it was hoped that the Group would meet more frequently in future, such as quarterly and this can be discussed later in the meeting.
4. Hurst Meadows Update Report
AB introduced the report on the meetings held and works undertaken at Hurst Meadows since October 2019. A great deal of work has also taken place since the Parish Council took ownership of the woodlands known as Tilley’s Copse and the Wilderness. The Bovis development adjacent to these two sites is getting closer to completion and Bovis are preparing the final interface between the woodlands and footpaths with the new housing estate. ML is aware of the planning conditions for the site and MSDC have reiterated the obligations on Bovis pertaining to complete the site access and drainage and ditch requirements. Further updates were as follows:
4.1 Lost Woods Project
The Woodland Trust were very interested in the site and had surveyed the woods to see if they would include them in their “Lost Woods” project that reaches from Pulborough to Lewes. The aim of the Lost Woods project is to recover and manage neglected ancient woods. Following the initial survey we have been informed that the woods have been selected as one of three sites for the project. The Trust have now had completed a more detailed review and noted the flora and fauna in order to develop a management plan for the health of the woodland. This report has just been released and GJ outlined the main findings. It will be important to establish who is responsible for initial and ongoing actions. If the contents are agreed the Forestry Commission will be approached to secure a felling licence. SH suggested this issue many require a future meeting of its own.
4.2 Autumn Works Programme
Quotes are being sought for three main areas of Autumn works in the Meadows namely, paths, planting and grass cutting. The cutting and baling will be undertaken in September or early October and is proposed for most of Buckwilly, the orchard and about a third of 15 Acre field.
4.3 Docks, Thistles and Ragwort Management
One question for the Group to consider is the most effective way of managing the docks, ragwort and thistle. MN suggested the best solution is to dig up the roots manually, although this is very labour intensive, as weed killer should not be used. GJ explained the docks were strimmed and collected in June, when it was flowering most vigorously. About a third of the area had been left for the skylarks who were nesting at the time. The area where the docks were
not cut will be cut and collected by machine this autumn with the arisings moved off site. In the spring, a comparison between the manual dock clearance in June and the later machine cut in September/October will be possible as a visual indication of the most effective way to reduce the plants.
AB explained a 50metre strip was being left at the bottom of 15 Acre to be kept clear of ragwort which CM has offered to cut the heads off this weekend and remove to landfill. MN also mentioned the blackthorn will creep in from the hedgerows (of which Hurstpierpoint has many), which GJ felt was desirable to a degree as it will provide a good scrub area for butterfly eggs.
4.4 Apple Orchard
In MS’s absence, AB reported the enormous amount of effort MS has put into watering and tending to the trees in the orchard. Of all the trees planted only one damson tree has had to be replaced and many have had a good crop. Following a detailed DNA investigation, MS has identified three new apple varieties which are not already recorded anywhere.
5. Hurst Meadows Management Plan
5.1 GJ gave an update on the works that had taken place over the Summer to help develop a management plan. She had been busy with home schooling and had not been able to spend as much time as she would have liked on the plan but all agreed GJ had contributed a huge amount of excellent work with the monitoring. Monitoring had included four lots of static photographic monitoring capturing how the hedges are developing and five visits to study botanical grass area species. A butterfly survey is planned for next year. The ragwort will be kept to encourage the butterflies as it is great for pollen and nectar and flowers later in the year helping sustain the pollinators through until the Winter, except the strip at the bottom of 15 Acre. NM believes we may also have some rare thistle varieties. No plants on site are intended to cause harm to any animals, pets or children/ humans.
5.2 The management plan will have an introduction, review of all the survey findings and then a plan with short and longer term actions and costings. The new deadline for a draft version will be the end of October 2020. GJ asked if there was anything else the Group would like to see included in the Plan. SB asked about the management plan being delivered to date. SH explained that the Section 106 Agreement listed obligations to deliver at a high level within a broad framework, so we now need to manage the sites more closely and understand the resources needed for this. We will need to find a balance between what we want to do and what we can fund. NM said we are lucky to have the money to allow us to consider projects carried out by contractors. NM asked if provision is being made to improve bat flight path improvement which usually follows tree lines. It was explained that the growth and expansion of the hedges should help in this respect across the Meadows area.
ML explained the S06 funding was a lump sum to last for 20 years, which equates to approx. £17,000 per annum. However, the costs of managing the site will mount up and even one cut, collect and disposal of arisings for the meadows will be thousands of pounds hence the need for a costed management plan. SB asked what happens after 20 years. The Stewardship Scheme and other possible funding sources were being investigated, as well as other resident support group options. Parish Council funding is raised through Council Tax via the precept. A combination of the use of volunteers will be essential with external funding, and the Lost Woods project is an excellent example of a project that comes with some funding.
5.3 Volunteers Groups
In the absence of PH, it is understood that there is a willingness from the College to provide volunteers but a more formal discussion is needed both to work out what the volunteers would be able to do and what jobs need doing. PH has offered to lead on this matter and it was agreed
that SH will approach Tim Elliott at the College to arrange a meeting in order to feed into the College’s plans for future terms.
At previous meetings it was agreed that the Group would focus on disabled accessibility for the Meadows and invite Ian Maskell to discuss this further with the Group. CM said the Meadows had been extremely popular during lockdown and new paths and benches were helping to achieve that objective. Further thought could be given to parking provision. There was concern that any parking provision for disabled badge holders would be abused and unenforceable. ML suggested that the Meadows may prove more accessible from Bramble Park/Iden Hurst but we should wait until those access points were fully opened to understand how people were gaining access to Hurst Meadows.
The Clerk read out the apologies and comment from SM who was unable to attend. SM said that the residents of Marchants Close had been adversely affected by the opening up of the lane and would in future appreciate communication from the council on matters affecting them. She was happy to represent the Close regards future changes and is happy to communicate with representatives to ensure changes are more effectively implemented. SM was thanked for her comments and SH offered to speak to SM outside the meeting to explain more fully the purpose of the group.
6. Supporting Local Forest Schools
6.1 SH introduced this item by reiterating the concept from the Neighbourhood Plan of encouraging as many members of the community as possible to use the Meadows. CM, HB and HR had some good experience of managing Forest Schools and the key issues were discussed. CM had met with the Forest School representative from Cottis School who also wanted to run a Forest School in Tilley’s Copse. CM also hoped to encourage St Lawrence to also make more use of Hurst Meadows. CM suggested a smaller group made up of CM, HB and HR could be formed to work up proposals and feed back to the HMAG. GJ also asked to join the group.
7. Matters for information or inclusion on next agenda
7.1 The Group considered and agreed items for the next agendas. A Mid Sussex District Councillor rep will no longer be attending the Group. The Clerk would also create a list of future items for agendas and the meeting dates, which currently include:
· Management Plan to be agreed in November.
· Lost Woods Project Updates.
· Ian Maskell to discuss access and parking.
7.2 SB was concerned about dog fouling in connection with Forest Schools despite the number of litter and dog waste bins provided on site. CM explained the campaign she is about to launch called “There is no such thing as a dog poo fairy”. This important matter will also be included in the Management Plan. It was also noted that dog waste and litter bins had been installed at all entrances to the Meadows.
7.3 SH also wanted to suggest that one of the unnamed apple varieties be named after Amanda Geel (ex-councillor) who had died of cancer last year but had done so much to make the orchard a reality. The proposal was agreed, subject to consultation with MS, who it was thought was already supportive of the idea. A further suggestion of naming one of the varieties after Martin Sadler was also agreed.
8. Date of Next Meeting: The next meeting will be held in November 2020 and the draft Management Plan will be the main item on the agenda.