Controversial path through Battlemead East Field approved by councillors

Shay Bottomley
Controversial path through Battlemead East Field approved by councillors

Battlemead Common’s East Field will see a new path installed after councillors approved the proposal at cabinet last night.

A report presented by Cllr Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s) was approved unanimously by the administration, paving the way for a ‘new fenced and screened path through the East Field’.

The path is set to be open by April 2022, with seasonal access from April until October to ensure the protection of overwintering birds from disturbance.

Presenting the report, Cllr Stimson, lead member for parks and countryside, said: “When purchased, Battlemead was to be used for public open space and biodiversity.

“After many, many discussions, we are ready to make our recommendations.”

She added that the Friends of Battlemead Steering Group, which consisted of individuals and groups who were split on whether the path should be opened, could not have had ‘more opposing views’.

“We believe these recommendations will protect the habitats and species, raise awareness of the environment, increase support for biodiversity, and provide an opportunity for education,” Cllr Stimson continued.

“If we instead keep people out, we create resentment, and it will not build a greater following of environmentalists.”

A petition, which garnered 886 signatures opposing to the plans, was presented to councillors by Phoebe Ibison on behalf of creator Rosie Street.

“The pandemic has made it blatantly obvious of the importance of green spaces to public health,” she said.

“While these places must be available to residents, we must also find genuinely effective ways to work in harmony with nature.

“The 60,000 RBWM residents who are under-30 will be observing your future actions, even in admiration, concern, or horror.”

Cllr Andrew Johnson, the leader of the council, supported the proposals, and said: “In this instance, the balances between public good through accessibility and public good to enhance biodiversity have, in my opinion, been struck within this report.”

However, Cllr Mandy Brar (Lib Dem, Bisham and Cookham) said that the proposed options ‘made no sense’ when there was already a ‘perfect path’ through the northern boundary which linked to the Thames Path.

Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) also expressed concern following an incident earlier this year in which a deer was killed by a dog.

“I’m really disappointed that Cllr Stimson is retreating from her announcement that, if there’s another incident, she will close the path,” said the leader of the opposition.

“Can I ask how quickly the path can be closed? And, if there is an incident, whether it has to go through a process or whether the lead member has the power to close it, at least as a temporary measure?”

In response, Cllr Stimson said: “The thing about the path is that it’s fenced with dog-proof fences on either side, so it’s unlikely to be closed as there’s no way for a dog to get over, under or through the fence.”

Cllr Werner replied by questioning what would happen if there was a hole in the fence, to which Cllr Johnson answered by saying that action would be taken in that instance, adding that it would be ‘rather pointless to have a dog-proof fence that had a hole in it.’

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