Minutes of a meeting of the Northam Burrows Advisory Committee held in the Council Chamber, Windmill Lane, Northam on Tuesday 17th February 2009


PRESENT: Chairman - Cllr R W A Miller

Members - Mrs S Collins, A Eastman, P Hames, C K Langton, R H Osborne, R Tisdale District Council - Mr S Corin Golf Club - Mr D Bushby 1716 Committee - Mr T E A Barclay Graziers - Miss S Jobson Scott Mr Justin Gillett - Natural England together with 1 Parishioner

Apologies were recorded on behalf of Mr A P Withecombe, Grazier and Mr R Webster, TDC

1. Minutes

The minutes of the meeting of the Northam Burrows Advisory Committee held 9 th October 2008 were approved and signed.

(Vote: Unanimous)

2. Natural England Mr Gillett

Mr Gillett, on behalf of Natural England, gave a presentation on the opportunities for Northam Burrows under the Environmental Stewardship Higher Level Scheme. Mr Gillett explained the aims of the scheme and the length of the agreement, which would normally be 10 years. He advised that Natural England would be looking for the Burrows to be in such condition that the majority of dune grassland and slack vegetation would appear as short turf, rich in flowering plants, with some bare sand, and limited areas of scattered scrub and rank grass present. It would be necessary for grazing levels to be set so as to allow substantial areas of grassland to flower and set seed every year. He also advised that the mixture of grazing needed to include cattle, as this would benefit certain areas of the Burrows. He thought that an application jointly from the Torridge District Council and Northam Town Council would be appropriate and should it be successful then payments in the order of £42,000 on an annual basis could be forthcoming. There is also the possibility of grants towards capital works such as fencing and scrub control.

Mr Bushby from the Golf Club raised concerns about cattle being allowed to graze on the Burrows and he thought the Golf Club would be totally opposed.

Mr Gillett advised that it may be possible to contain the cattle within a fence but that this would need the Secretary of State's consent and would be part of the negotiations leading up to a scheme.

Cllr Mrs Collins also raised concern about cattle being on the Burrows and the effect on the general public.

Mr Bushby was concerned that the Great Plain was not well grazed and he thought that presented 150 acres of additional grazing if it was only mown.

Mr Gillett advised that from English Nature's view the Great Plain was in a favourable condition, though it was possible for trial areas to be mown subject to a suitable application being approved.

Graziers were concerned that the richness of the grass currently on the Burrows was giving problems for horses that were suffering from laminitis and they thought more intensive grazing would overcome this. Mr Gillett explained that English Nature's aim was to ensure that the flowering plants were left to produce and set seed and this fundamentally was their reasons for reducing the grazing. He did emphasise, however, that grazing of the common was an essential part of the management of the Burrows.

The Chairman thanked Mr Gillett for attending.

3. Items from District Council

(a) Changes to Golf course layout

Cllrs Langton and Miller declared a personal interest.

Mr Bushby explained that the Club were planning ahead in view of their concerns that loss of part of the Burrows to the sea would result in them requiring to locate onto other parts of the Burrows. The matter was noted this time.

(b) Mr Corin reported on increased vandalism, particularly cars that were driving off the roads. He though it likely that the Council would be locking the gates overnight all the year round starting at the end of the coming summer.

(c) Ms Jobson-Scott raised concerns that she had been unable to make progress with the District Council with regard to the reinstatement of a small bridge over the stream. District Members agreed to follow up this matter.

4. Items from Graziers

It was reported that Mr Withecombe, sheep grazier, was making excessive use of his quad bike whilst rounding up his sheep. It was agreed to write to Mr Withecombe expressing the Council's concern and seeking more moderate use of the vehicle.

5. Items from the Golf Club

The summer work programme was noted.

6. Letter from Mr Duncan

The letter from Mr Duncan was considered and it was agreed to write to him and explain that Country Parks take many forms.

7. Allocation of Grazing

The Town Clerk reported on the applications for grazing for the forthcoming year and advised that numbers were well within the set limits. It was agreed to recommend the applications be approved subject to the necessary documentation being provided by the horse owners.