Petition launched against plans to open Battlemead path to public

Shay Bottomley

shayb@baylismedia.co.uk

Debate over plans to open a path through a protected wildlife area of Battlemead Common to the public has led to the creation of a petition.

The path, which is set to be put forward to the Battlemead Steering Group on Tuesday, cuts through Battlemead’s East Field and ‘sensitive wetland area’.

Both areas are currently closed to the public as they fall under a designated priority habitat which protects wildlife, with West Field open to the public to enjoy the natural surroundings.

An existing path connecting Lower Cookham Road to the River Thames is already in place, which takes pedestrians through the West Field and around the closed area adjacent to the Battlemead boundary.

A petition opposing the opening of the public path has been launched with the support of local wildlife groups.

The groups have opposed the proposed path, with the petition raising more than 600 signatures at the time of writing.

But supporters of the path have criticised 'scaremongering' surrounding the new path, and said it is 'unlikely to have a significant impact' on wildlife in the area.

In a joint statement with Wild Cookham, a spokesperson for Wild Maidenhead said: “Given the council’s intention to open up the designated priority habitat at Battlemead to public access, the two local wildlife groups feel they have no choice but to oppose this. We are calling on local people who care about nature, and the extreme threats our wildlife faces, to voice their opposition.

“It’s a step we would wish to avoid but the council’s decision flies in the face of its own Environment and Climate Strategy which makes protection and restoration of our natural habitats a top priority.

“We know that there are many on all sides of the council who share our concerns and we hope that they will be prepared to put aside party politics to support us.

“Our request is very simple. We are in an ecological freefall. Around one in six of our UK species is under threat of extinction and many more species have suffered up to 95 per cent losses over recent decades. We humans – our actions and assumptions – are the cause so we have to start changing these.

It said that Battlemead is one of the largest council-owned open spaces with a great potential for biodiversity gain, adding that it makes ‘no sense’ to jeopardise the area to ‘simply get an extra view of Cliveden’.

“We want local people to be able to enjoy Battlemead for many years to come. Allowing extra time to allow nature to recover there, creating a more diverse and rich habitat for all (humans and wildlife) is a small price to pay,” the group continued.

In a letter to the Advertiser, Ann Darracott, Steve Gillions, and Dick Scarff of the Maidenhead Civic Society, East Berks Ramblers and the Cookham Society respectively, have outlined their support for the path.

The letter states there is 'currently no circular walk' on the land and supporters are calling for only the causeway path to be opened throughout the year and 'have never sought access to the whole of the East Field'.

It adds: “We accept that in the winter migratory wildfowl, unfamiliar with the area, may be startled, but this is a large field with several wetland areas so the path, to be fenced, is unlikely to have a significant impact on them.

“It is certainly not of sufficient impact to justify preventing all access to the causeway path by walkers.”

Referring to the meeting next week, the letter states: "Readers should know that the amenity societies have done their best to obtain improved access to this new common for residents and visitors by contacting the steering group that meets on August 3.

"Walking has been especially important for the mental and physical health of everyone during the pandemic. We feel Battlemead should play its part."

To view the petition, visit https://petitions.rbwm.gov.uk/save-battlemead/

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