Agenda item


To provide an update on rewilding including the beaver reintroduction project, tree planting, wetlands and conservation grazing being carried out as part of the Enfield Chase Landscape Restoration project.



Items 4 and 5, rewilding and cattle grazing respectively, would be reported on/ considered together.


Ian Russell and Cheryl Headon introduced and highlighted the key aspects of the report, including but not limited to: beaver reintroduction, cattle grazing at Forty Hall, wetlands, landscape recovery projects, woodlands, footpaths/cycleways, work with farmers, Enfield Chase landscape and biodiversity. 


In response to Members enquiries regarding tree planting and maintenance, officers advised that a percentage of loss was always going to take place, and trees were particularly vulnerable in their first few years, but if they survived this, they would be more resilient in the future. They said that whilst watering during periods of significant heat was unrealistic; new full-time operational positions and grants/ external funding had been secured which provided options that would allow for better control and maintenance. It was expressed that officers were speaking to/ working with external experts and had taken away lessons from last year. Officers advised that planting during the right conditions, and putting down mulch/ tree bark could improve survival rates/ chances. Officers felt that some of the external auditing/ performance reviews had not been entirely accurate, and pointed out that the benefit realisation for such projects was not immediate.


In response to Members questions relating to revenue/ budgetary pressures, officers advised that feasibility studies had been conducted and a variety of funding streams were available to them. They advised that they had just gone through a feasibility study with Natural England for Countryside Stewardship, which generated funding for land management practices with around £40,000 per annum achieved. Officers expressed there had been an increase from 5 to 18 parks which would generate a breadth of income, and aftercare periods had been included to ensure maintenance was budgeted for. They added that business cases were being carefully crafted and scrutinised to make sure the funding for such projects were fully considered and built in.


In response to Members queries regarding wetland maintenance, officers advised that it could take some time for wetlands to establish, and that they try to engage with local residents on the work that they are doing. A ditch at Cheyne Walk was said to be overgrown and have a blocked drainpipe, which officers were trying to clear to prevent flooding on the path; some of the issue had been resolved but work was still ongoing. Officers were said to have been on site the day after the last large downpour, and a communication piece could be picked up with residents around the work being done. Officers agreed to visit Little Bury Road and come back to with a plan of action regarding the fencing. It was described how the service restructure would ensure there were enough staff and a change in method would see teams responsible for the maintenance of such projects.


In response to Members enquiries relating to beavers, officer advised that they had worked with the Beavers Trust and incorporated their expertise into the project; the beaver enclosure was said to be large and deemed a suitable/ appropriate size. An agreement was said to have been reached with Council planning enforcement services and a tree officer, to replant trees which had been accidently feld in the construction of the enclosure, and said trees had now been planted. Officers explained that there was an agreement with Capel Manor, who were responsible for managing the welfare of the animals and bore some of the cost, in return for using the project as a marketing tool. It was described that income could be generated through guided tours of the site, and the Council were looking at working with the college on this to help cover some of their costs. Money generated through other projects such as landscape recovery were also said to help partially cover the long-term costs of the scheme. Officers agreed to come back to Members with the true revenue cost of the project. Officers said that there were no plans to introduce more beavers at that site which had a 5-year licence running until 2027 for up to 8 beavers. If 8 was exceeded, work would be done with the Beaver Trust to relocate surplus beavers; and they could look at swapping some beavers for genetic diversity.


In response to Members questions regarding woodland costs, officers advised that a revenue/income was received from the Forestry Commission per hectare per year for the first 10 years, and that after this point the woodlands would require less management. It was said that income generation as part of the landscape recovery project would help contribute to their maintenance. Officers described one of the pieces of work for the new Head of Rural Transformation, a post which the Environment Agency had agreed funding for to 2025, was a road map/ robust plan detailing financial models and sources of funding for potential projects. The timeframe for this piece of work was said to be a year, with the importance of projects being self-sustaining, through means such as recreation and tourism highlighted, and officers’ aspiration for a mosaic of land uses and habitats was described.


In response to Members queries relating to conservation grazing, officers advised that the project at Forty Hall was a licensed partnership with Capel Manor College, which the college managed for landscape benefits; but the Council would be exploring commercial opportunities for grazing in rural areas. A risk analysis was said to have been undertaken, with entering into a contractual arrangement and using the college’s expertise to manage the cattle, proving the safer/ better option. Officers said that they were currently in the process of taking the learning from the Forty Hall project and assessing the performance against the costs and expectations, and this would guide the future steps for such/similar projects, such as at Trent Park. 


In response to Members enquiries regarding land management, officers advised that there was a variety of schemes e.g., food production, and funding streams available to them, and they were in the process of understanding what the best long-term approach was at different locations. They expressed that some of the funding available came with certain criteria and commitments which needed to be fully understood and weighed up against alternatives, for instance conducting feasibility studies and baselining the quality of soil.


A member of the public asked about tree planting, watering, and maintenance; the potential for introducing herds of cattle; and increasing food production. Officers advised that they would follow up on these points.

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