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Council presses pause on Battlemead masterplan

The council has pressed pause on a major plan for Battlemead Common which attracted criticism from residents last week.

The Ecological Management Plan, announced by the Royal Borough last Tuesday, aims to bothenhance wildlife and give greater public access to the land off Lower Cookham Road.

Purchased by the council in December 2018, the area has been the subject of disagreements between those wanting wildlife to thrive and others requesting better access for walking.

The masterplan, reported in the Advertiser last week, prompted a backlash from wildlife groups, with the chairman of WildCookham Mike Copland saying he was ‘dismayed’ by the proposals.

A Facebook group called ‘Save Battlemead’ was soon created, and on Tuesday it was revealed the Royal Borough would be hitting pause on its plans.

The council feels it has not allowed a ‘Friends of Battlemead’ group to review the new plan, with Cllr Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s) the council’s lead member for parks and countryside, saying ‘we just did not give them an opportunity to comment’.

Friends of Battlemead was formed by the council to have a say over the site’s management.

Proposals had included a new footpath through the East Field and the allowing of lead-free dogs in the West Field all year-round.

In a letter seen by the Advertiser, the council’s parks and countryside manager Anthony Hurst said the council has ‘a little bit more work to do’ to balance public access and biodiversity.

He added: “For the last year we have deliberated over the site’s management with a group we formed called ‘Friends of Battlemead Common’.

“It is only fair that we show this group the courtesy of reviewing this latest plan with them, despite the challenges large remote meetings bring at this time.

“This land was bought with taxpayer money, and this council serves the residents.

“It is important that we act fairly in this regard. We recognise that the solution will not suit everyone, and a compromise will have to be reached, but the process must be fair or the outcome will not have much chance of success.”

Speaking to the Advertiser on Tuesday, Cllr Stimson said: “We have been working with these people for a year and we just did not give them an opportunity to comment.

“I think we are nearly there with it. Maybe there is a cleverer way of doing it.

“It is just a case of having a little bit more work put into it. So we pushed pause on it and we are going to take a deep breath, go back to the group and have conversations with them.

“Let’s get this right rather than make it quick.

“It is too important just to have it approved, it is too key.”

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