Martlesham Heath SSSI Policies On Recreational Use
These has been developed to provide a balance between its use as an amenity area with the need to maintain it in accordance the legal obligations arising from its SSSI status.
We would appreciate the assistance of users in helping to manage the site. Any problems can be notified by email at email@example.com or by phone (voicemail only) through MHHL on 01473 612207.
The Western Corridor SSSI at Martlesham Heath is an important area of lowland heath that is home to species of flora and fauna that only exist on this type of habitat.
Although the area is open to people for appropriate recreational purposes, the protected nature of the area means that there are some restrictions on the activities that are allowed.
In order to protect the SSSI, and to ensure safety of users of the site, the following activities are prohibited.
- use of motor cycles, motor cars or any other form of motor vehicle unless the use is authorised by the Company in connection with land management activities.
- lighting of fires on any part of the land, with the exception only of fires authorised by the Company in connection with management of the land.
- lighting of barbecues.
- horse riding.
- use of powered model aircraft.
- metal detecting activities and associated digging.
MHHL believes that everyone should be able to enjoy this special area in harmony with others. Dog walkers are frequent visitors to the site and we welcome this. We do ask that dogs are kept under effective control so as not to interfere with other users or the resident wildlife. ‘Effective control’ means the dog is kept in sight at all times, you are aware of what it’s doing, and are confident it will return to you promptly on command, or if you are not sure that it will do this, your dog is kept on a lead.
Please remember that it is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to allow your dog to harass wildlife.
During the nesting period for ground-nesting birds (1st March to 31st July), please keep your dogs to the main paths and open areas.
Dog mess is unpleasant and it can cause infections. The area is used for recreation by children and many different kinds of users, and out of respect for them we would ask that you always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly – ‘bag it and bin it’. Please also make sure your dog is wormed regularly to protect it, other animals and people.
January 24 2013
A Reply To "Conservation Or Devastation"
Many of you will have read an article in the last Martlesham Monthly entitled "Conservation or Devastation." It presented the view of one MHHL member of the impact of management plans on the Western Corridor SSSI.
While MH SSSI Ltd. recognises the concern that many people have for the trees on the Heath, the article does not present a balanced picture of the work that is being carried out. The inference that MHHL are secretly devastating the Western Corridor is unfounded and unjustified, and there are a number of points of misunderstanding that we would like to clarify.
Natural England is a government organisation that advises on the natural environment and has enforcement responsibilities for designated sites of natural interest.
Many years ago, Natural England designated the Western Corridor as a heathland SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). This is a legal protection on the land. We cannot opt out, and we are required to manage the SSSI to support the flora and fauna that is characteristic of lowland heath.
If we neglect this management responsibility, Natural England has the powers to fine us, impose management plans (to be paid for by the landowner) or, ultimately to compulsorily purchase the land.
MHHL have not, therefore, "decided to involve Natural England", they are involved as of right and will monitor the site to ensure it is managed.
MHHL subsequently did decide to enter into an agreement with Natural England to obtain some of the funding for the work necessary to improve the condition of the land. The alternative would have been to increase the maintenance charge for all MHHL members. Either way, we still have to manage the land. This was publicised at two open meetings and agreed by MHHL members at an AGM.
MH SSSI Ltd still decides what work will be done to regenerate the heath within the overall targets that we have agreed with NE, and who will do the work.
The article paints a picture of devastation, but ignores the following points.
- The reduction of tree numbers is a gradual process and will take place over ten years.
- Although the tree coverage will be reduced by nearly half (actually 40%), many of the trees removed will be saplings and small, immature trees that will have a limited effect on the landscape.
- The band of trees running alongside Dobbs Lane will be retained.
- If trees are not removed, the area will continue its transition to become scrubby woodland and not heathland, even though the article seems to accept that the area should be "beautiful heathland".
- Heathland is a much rarer habitat than woodland and is important in its own right for the wildlife it supports.
- A number of larger trees will be removed as part of the plan, to open up areas to allow the heathland species to grow again, and restore the condition of this rare habitat.
The reference to Natural England's role in Sutton Heath is unnecessarily alarmist as there is no real parallel between the two situations. Whereas Sutton Heath had significant areas of forest, and there may be arguments against felling the trees there, the Western Corridor is clearly still heathland and can, should, and indeed legally must be restored.
Finally, there is the implication again that MHHL is doing all this with a secretly appointed group of people and without reference to the membership. This is simply not true. MHHL tries to involve people and has made frequent appeals for support in various capacities, including for Directors of the MH SSSI company. In fact, the author of the article in question was asked if he would like to be involved in the management of the Western Corridor. You can not involve people unless they are willing to be involved. MHHL makes available opportunities for the membership to have their say through open meetings and AGMs, and they can make comments through a number of channels.
We certainly do not believe that the plans for the Western Corridor amount to devastation. We are committed to regenerating the heath (as we must) but also recognise that it is an important amenity area for our community. The Western Corridor has changed massively over the last 30 years and the work planned is intended to restore some of the character it had then.
As members of MHHL, we have volunteered to manage the land on behalf of the membership within the legal and financial constraints that exist, and which critics often ignore.
We know that we can improve the way that we carry out the task, and particularly the way that we involve the membership, and have now set up the SSSI Interest Group. The MH SSSI Board is also currently reviewing the way it plans the work so that we can publicise proposals to the membership much earlier and allow time for feedback. The review will also look at how we can ensure that areas that have been cleared of vegetation are not swamped by brambles and other weeds.
MHHL and MH SSSI welcome any constructive input to the debate on how we manage our land and you may ask questions or make comments at any time to the SSSI Interest Group, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through MHHL at email@example.com