Surrey Wildlife Trust launches urgent wildfire appeal

Surrey Wildlife Trust is urgently asking for donations to help one of Surrey’s most precious heathland habitats, and around 200 red deer that help maintain it, recover from a devastating wildfire.

In July, a wildfire broke out on Pirbright Ranges, one of the largest areas of lowland heath in Surrey and home to many rare and threatened species.  Patches of ground continue to burn for three weeks and over 650 hectares of pristine heathland has now been severely burnt, at great cost to wildlife.

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s herd of red deer carry out a vital role by grazing the heathland to prevent scrub including Scots pine, common gorse and silver birch from taking over the site.   This allows slower-growing dwarf scrub and specialist heathland plant species to flourish, creating the foundation of the unique and threatened heathland ecosystem.  Following the fire, hundreds of meters of fencing and heavy-duty sleepers that keep the deer safely on site now needs to be replaced – and the ongoing welfare of the herd will depend on regular vet checks and inspections by SWT staff.  Supplementary food in the form of haylage will also be made available to the deer to ensure they have enough food to maintain good condition heading into winter.

The immediate impact of the fire also includes the potential loss of hundreds of recently fledged rare ground-nesting birds including European nightjars, Dartford warblers and woodlark which may have been too young to fly away from the fire.  The damage to the site will also have prevented their parents from nesting a second time this year and will change the availability of suitable nesting sites for years to come.  Reptiles like slow worms, grass snakes and adders have been unable to escape the fire, perishing alongside the many invertebrate species, including endangered heath tiger beetles that inhabit the remaining heathland fragments in the southeast of England.

Rising temperatures and a lack of rainfall has led to increasingly large, uncontrollable blazes that destroy large areas of heathland. The Pirbright Ranges Fire has potentially burned deep into the ground, affecting plant species including round-leaved sundew, marsh clubmoss and bell heather over hundreds of hectares.

Around 85% of heathland in the UK has been lost over the past 150 years through agriculture, development and changes in land management. Surrey Wildlife Trust manages several areas of heathland, including Chobham Common National Nature Reserve and Wisley and Ockham commons that are particularly susceptible to fire in dry conditions.  Strain on resources in the years ahead are set to be severe for all who manage and protect these diverse and sensitive habitats.  Dealing with the impact of the Pirbright Ranges fire is expected to account for more than 30 additional days of SWT staff time this year alone.

Pirbright before the fire

 

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s director of reserves management, James Herd, says: “Wildfires have put Surrey on the front line of the climate and nature emergency – and we urgently need extra support to meet the challenge.  Whilst the heathland will regenerate over time, it is likely to be eight to twelve years before it returns to full health.  The deer will perform a unique and irreplaceable role in ensuring the lowland habitats recover during this time.  All donations we receive will go directly to ensuring their welfare and the continuing safety of Surrey’s heathlands and their unique plants and animals.

“With the help of local people, we will do all we can to explore what more can be done to protect our natural heritage as weather patterns change.  It’s vitally important that people in Surrey can continue to reap the benefits of diverse and healthy ecosystems.”

Pirbright after the fire

 

Pirbright Ranges is owned by the Ministry of Defence.  For safety reasons, it is not accessible to the public.  The herd of red deer that grazes the site is owned and managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust.

David Nolan, Area Commander for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service said: “Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to be wildfire aware. We have seen an increase in the number of wildfires we are attending recently and are asking residents to help keep Surrey safe. Please pack a picnic instead of a BBQ, and don’t have campfires or bonfires when the weather is dry! Ensure you dispose of cigarettes and litter correctly.”

For More Information Regarding Surrey Wildlife Trust CLICK HERE

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council responds to ULEZ consultation

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) has responded to Transport for London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) consultation.

TFL’s proposal is to expand the ULEZ to all London boroughs, including Kingston-upon-Thames and Sutton. This means eight out of the 13 wards in the borough will border the ULEZ and be directly affected. The Council anticipates the remaining wards will also be impacted by increased parking demand and use of side streets by non-exempt vehicle owners.

The following response was agreed by members at Full Council on 28 July:

  1. Provision is required for exempt routes which enable access to essential places and roads such as:
    1. A3, M25, A240.
    2. Facilities, e.g. the existing St Helier in Sutton.
    3. SW Region stations and other transport hubs that at present are outside the ULEZ but require EEBC residents to pass through the proposed ULEZ to reach them.
  2. Owners of non-exempt vehicles in EEBC to be included in any scrappage scheme that the Mayor of London is requesting from central government for London borough residents.
  3. The consultation period of two months should be extended until 31 December 2022 to allow more careful analysis of the cause and effect to the welfare and economy of the boroughs.

Councillor John Beckett, Chair of Environment and Safe Communities Committee, said: “We support the move to reduce high levels of air pollution, which the ULEZ scheme aims to achieve. However, owing to the acute economic pressure households and business are facing at this time, the scheme needs to consider the economic, social and mental health needs of all communities affected by this scheme, not just London boroughs.”

Your Funds…Your Ideas……

Residents have the opportunity to tell Mole Valley District Council the priorities for improving their local communities. The feedback received will help inform decision-making about spending money collected from developers, totalling almost £1 million.

 The Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (NCIL) – or Neighbourhood Fund – consists of money from developers collected by Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) when new homes or retail premises are built in the district. Because new development can put a strain on existing infrastructure, the Neighbourhood Fund is available for communities to bid for money to deliver new infrastructure or maintaining existing infrastructure. Just under £1 million is currently available.

MVDC is inviting residents to complete a short consultation and choose the top three priority areas they consider are important, or in need of investment, in their local community. The consultation, and further guidance on the Neighbourhood

Fund, is available by visiting molevalley.gov.uk/fund. Residents can have their say until Wednesday 31 August 2022.

Councillor Bridget Kendrick, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We want to engage with the people who know the needs of their communities best – our residents – to help give us a much clearer picture about where and what is needed in the district in terms of infrastructure. We will be carrying this exercise out every other year, as we know that priorities change over time. “Once we have the vital feedback from this consultation, we will be in a much better position to be able to assess bids for funding we receive from local communities and make informed decisions about where investment is needed. Please do get involved, we really do need to hear from you and what you tell us will make a difference.”