MP’s Call to Maintain Chailey Heathlands

6:00pm, Sunday, September 1st 2013.

An MP has urged a council to clear up one of the largest open heathlands in the county. Norman Baker is calling on East Sussex County Council to properly maintain Chailey Common. The Lewes MP said he has received reports from residents that the plant life is getting out of control and the animals grazing the land may be struggling to keep up. Mr Baker has asked the county council to do more to keep the site of special scientific interest area open and accessible to locals. The privately owned site is run by a management committee under an agreement between the county council, Lewes District Council and the landowners. He said: “There is a lot of history to Chailey Common and to have it maintained in a centuries old way is a desirable approach to an essential service. However, if this solution is not working then it should be made clear that it is East Sussex’s responsibility to pick up the slack.”

An East Sussex County Council spokeswoman said grazing was introduced on the common as part of a project to protect the nationally rare heathland and to help remove invasive plants and scrub. She added: “Without these animals, in conjunction with mechanical control measures, the heathland and wildlife that goes with it could be lost forever. The grazing scheme is funded by Natural England which has approved the work programme and grazing schedule. Work to clear areas of Chailey Common takes place all year round with fire rides and the Rights of Way across the common also routinely cleared back to maintain access.”

[The current grazing being carried out by ponies belonging to the Sussex Pony Grazing & Conservation Trust, (together with sheep and cattle), will not on their own deal with 70-plus years of neglect. Large areas of bracken and birch have now become established, gradually shading out many of the beautiful, small heathland plants and insects. This can to a large degree, be reversed with the correct management. Grazing has to work in tandem with mechanical intervention (with perhaps some careful, controlled burning?) in the form of thoughtfully scheduled mowing and tree clearance which to date, has not happened on a sufficiently large scale. ESCC is presumably receiving funding from Natural England to carry out this work, so lets see the Chailey Commons bloom once again!]

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