Warning to dog owners after deer killed at Battlemead Common

A councillor has urged people to keep their dogs on leads if they cannot keep them under control after a canine killed a deer in Battlemead Common at the weekend.

The incident happened on Saturday morning in the West Field, where the public is allowed access and dogs are permitted to be off leads.

Councillor Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s), the Windsor and Maidenhead council’s lead member for parks and countryside, was alerted and visited the site off Lower Cookham Road to help dispose of the deceased female roe deer.

She told the Advertiser that it ‘concerns me enormously’ that this incident occurred, and pleaded for people to remain in control of their dogs.

“You should be able to control your dog, and if you can’t, your dog should be on a lead,” Cllr Stimson said.

“It concerns me enormously. I am always concerned for wildlife. Battlemead is a very precious area and we are aiming to preserve it as much as possible and manage the balance between biodiversity and access.”

Battlemead Common, which was purchased by the council in December 2018, has made the headlines in recent years with disagreements from opposing groups over how the site should be maintained.

One of the contentious areas of the countryside site is the East Field, with wildlife groups wanting this area kept away from the public to protect species, while other organisations, such as the East Berkshire Ramblers, want it to be accessible on a seasonal basis.

A ‘Friends of Battlemead’ group of interested parties was created by the Royal Borough, and this has now been split into a steering group, made up of a smaller number of people.

This group had its first meeting on March 29, in which it was decided that council officers would go away and devise a plan on how best to manage the controversial East Field. Another meet-up is planned in June.

Mike Copland is chairman of WildCookham and sits on the steering group, which Cllr Stimson chairs.

He has been an advocate of protecting wildlife and claims that humans have to stop making assumptions that all of the countryside should be theirs.

On Saturday’s incident, he said: “We have known it will happen. It is tragic that it happened with a deer because that is such an iconic, visible animal.

“What we also know is that lots of less visible animals are clearly disturbed by free-running dogs.

“What we humans want, we can have. That is a basic assumption which we know know results in the environmental catastrophe that we now face.

“We have said that what we must do is start with the ecological potential of Battlemead, given the council’s climate priorities.

“Having got that right, you can then look at how the public can best enjoy it. There is still time to make the right long-term decision and I hope the council will do that.”

Mr Copland added that the overall Battlemead masterplan still needs ‘a little bit of work’ but said that the steering group and council is ‘making progress’ on other elements of the overall management plan for the site.

He also said that there is a path ‘around the perimeter’ of Battlemead which links Widbrook Common with the Thames Path, therefore providing a link for the Millenium Walk.

On Mr Copland’s views, Cllr Stimson said that she ‘agreed with him to a certain extent’ but added: “I also want people to be able to experience the beauty of Battlemead and fall in love with that space.

“But I do not think it should be 50/50 [private and access]. With very little access, you can still see almost all of it.”

Steve Gillions, from the walking group East Berkshire Ramblers who is keen for more of the space to be opened up safely, expressed deep regret over the deer incident.

“It happens and it is regrettable every time it does,” he said. “Dogs need to be properly controlled. I would not take my dog on to Battlemead, there are other places I can do so, but that is a personal view.

“I think there is a responsibility on dog owners to do just that [control their pets].”

On the masterplan, Mr Gillions added: “We do not think it should be access everywhere anymore than we think people should be banned everywhere either.

“We would support a summer-only route, with dog-proof fencing, across the East Field, which is still under discussion.

“We do understand the need for balance.”

Cllr Stimson said that ‘experienced ecologists’ are working on the masterplan, and when asked if she was confident that a suitable conclusion could be reached on Battlemead, she said: “Yes, of course I am. There is a compromise, but I am an optimist.”

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