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Rat Update 11 May

Early indications have shown that since we sealed up the bins at the end of last week, the litter and discarded food problem has reduced to almost zero. So far, the public are taking their rubbish away with them, which has surprised us and this is the opposite of what we were advised to expect from experts. We thank everyone for taking their litter away with them.

Hopefully, this will continue, and it will protect the Heath from the negative impact of litter being left on the floor or in bins.

What are we aiming to achieve:-

1. Eradication of the rats which are causing a risk to humans

2. Permanently remove the food source to avoid a similar problem in the future.

3. Keep the car park open for visitors and avoid cars parking on the road and the unintended road safety problems that would cause

What have we done previously:-

1. Tried to remove the food source by making amendments to the bins to stop the rats gaining access to the discarded food

2. Place poison bait under the bins

This was not successful. The rats were still gaining access to the bins, which has not removed their ability to access the food source. The result is that the rats were not eating the bait.

What are we doing now:-

1. We have sealed up the bins so waste food and litter cannot be put in the bins and the rats can’t gain access

2. Asked all visitors to take their rubbish away when they leave

3. Removed the poison temporarily whilst we monitor to see if the litter and discarded food is reducing and to avoid exceeding the amount of time poisoning can be carried out by law

4. Asked McDonald to continue with their twice daily litter picks

5. New rodent proof  bins are on order (delivery time 3-4 weeks)

6. Monitoring the situation for the next 3 weeks

What will we do next:-

1. Assess if the litter and discarded food source problem reduces

2. Assess if further baiting with poison is required

3. Monitor the situation and assess if the rat population is reducing

4. Make a decision on whether to install new bins based on how much litter the public leave in the car park or remove the bins entirely.

5. Continually monitor whether we need to temporarily close the car park

LINK TO REDACTED HSE EMAIL

Confirmation from the Health and Safety Executive regarding Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme that consideration was given to the Hierarchy of Control as identified in the CRRU Code of Best Practice prior to application of the rodenticide, and that when the application of the rodenticide was begun it was being applied in a manner intended to minimize the risks to humans, companion animals and wildlife – Use of rodenticide at Therfield Road car park – Reference: 0705BXM21-01 –

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Additional information on rat measures

Use of Rat Poison in small Therfield Heath Carpark.

The last few months have been incredibly challenging for the Heath and the car parks with increased foot fall and litter.   It is therefore not surprising, yet is most regrettable,  that we have found that we have a growing rat colony in the small and very well used Therfield Road car park.    

Background to why we needed to act

We are required to take action by NHDC under the Pest Act 1949 because of the risk to humans from the infestation.   The Pest Act of 1949 can be seen here

Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 (legislation.gov.uk)

A copy of the letter (with personal information redacted) which we received on 10 March from NHDC can be read here .   The letter asked us to engage a pest controller and we did so.

The need to take action

Given that notice under the 1949 Pest Act has been served we need to take action.  Our Pest Controller estimates that there are well over 100 rats within the car park.  Rats can breed at a prolific rate. An online search will highlight some of dangers that rats pose to humans.    We have not taken the decision to use rat poison  lightly.  We have taken this decision after the receipt of notice from NHDC under the Pest Act 1949 and upon receipt of professional advice from a pest controller.

Action Plan

We have engaged the services of a pest controller.   A site survey was carried out.  A copy can be seen here with more information here. An Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) was carried out.  A copy can be seen here.

The CRRU code (Code of Best Practice for the use of rodenticides) says that there should be a site survey and an  ERA and both have been undertaken.   We do not expect to bait the area in the long term. 

Communication, domestic animals and wildlife

We have communicated widely and successfully with the dog trainer, dog walker and dog owner communities.  For those who were not contacted  in advance, or by  the time that baiting started, then there are many onsite signs to alert dog walker and also any  casual visitors.

We think there will be few pet cats in this area as it is a significant distance from any houses and in any case we would hope cat owners would not allow their pets to hunt or explore in a nature reserve.

We have engaged with local wildlife groups,  and Natural England, and hope they will assist in ensuring our approach minimises any impact on wildlife.  

We will maintain the regular bin emptying and litter patrols and have arrangements in place to remove any rats/rat remains and for those to be disposed of correctly.

Monitoring and modifying our approach

Along with our pest controller we will monitor the infestation and we all remain ready to modify our approach.  We will do all we can to minimise adverse consequences but must be responsive to NHDC and comply with the Pest Act 1949.   We are obliged to provide regular updates to NHDC in respect of this matter and to comply with the terms of their letter to us which again can be seen here.

Work with us to reducing food availability

We have a plan to upgrade the bins to versions that stop rats from getting into them. This will (we hope) reduce the availability of food once they have been delivered and installed.

Although we have twice daily bin emptying and litter picking we note some litter / waste and food is still being left on the floor by the public. 

We ask everyone to play their part and to take their litter home with them.

Work with us to make Therfield Road car park rat free. 

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Warning : Rat Bait in use

The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens have authorised Pest Control to set up rat poison bait boxes in the small Therfield Road carpark (see map) in order to deal with a disturbingly large – and growing – rat infestation notified to us under the 1949 Pest Act. 

The rat poison being used is Bromadiolone. As the Landowner we are obliged to deal with this matter promptly and in accordance with the Pest Act 1949.

We have authorised the placing of rat poison in secure bait boxes which are themselves then placed within the litter bins bases. This has significantly reduced the risk of any human contact with the bait.  However, we are warning all users – particularly dog walkers to be alert.  Keep young children and dogs close to you and within eye-sight to ensure that  they do not come into contact with rats/rat remains in this area. 

Additionally, we will be removing some bins (which have been damaged by the rats) so as to limit rat access to food waste and to give our pest controller the greatest chance of bringing this problem under control in the coming weeks.  Please play your part and take food waste home with you. 

Finally, a daily site visit has been established to remove visible rat remains and current litter picking activities will continue as normal.

We wish to resolve this problem as soon as possible.  However, this requires everyone to play their part. So please:

  • Be alert to the rat problem ;  warning signs are on site and in the wider area
  • Leave no food waste

All enquiries or comments can be directed to the clerk at clerk@therfieldheath.org.uk or by phone on 07449 705345.  Thank you for your understanding.

Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens

Date : Friday 16 April 2021

Map of the treatment area shown in red on the map above.

Warning Posters – like this (click here for poster) are on display.

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Public Meeting now 18 March 2021 by Zoom

Dear Residents

On Thursday 18 March 2021 at 19:00 the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens will be hosting a public meeting by Zoom.  If you are interested in attending then please do register for the meeting.  When we receive your registration (see below) we will send you the Zoom meeting login details.

Meeting agenda

Covid-19 has prevented the holding of the February 2021 SDDR election and AGM and so the agenda of the public meeting has been formulated with this in mind and will be as below:-

1.         Welcome

2.         Introductions

3.         Update from the Conservators

  • Priorities
  • Maintenance Heath and Greens
  • Financial situation – 2019 Accounts

4.         Specific points raised for discussion (see below on how to contribute)

5.         Next steps

How to register for this Zoom meeting and contribute a question

Please use this link to register in advance for this meeting:

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcuf-GgpzsvG9NnvZMDU1MypKPsbu128Oho

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.   You need only to supply your name and email address to register.  There is also the opportunity to send us a short question.  If you think of a question later then you can email it to the clerk (clerk@therfieldheath.org.uk )  and we will try to include it.  Regrettably, there may not be time to answer all questions during the meeting.  

If you haven’t used Zoom before, you don’t need an account to join this meeting;  you can access Zoom via the link  provided either through your web browser or by downloading the app when prompted. You can do this in advance of the meeting or just before we start at 19.00.

We look forward to engaging with you and to receiving your questions and comments. Conservators will be seeking to arrange a further public meeting in the summer and this will be advertised on Facebook and via our website.

The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens

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Ground Nesting Birds

Ground Nesting Birds on Therfield Heath

Lots of you will be aware that it is that time of year again….the Skylarks and Meadow Pipits are singing across Therfield Heath and they are now starting to nest. We understand Therfield Heath is a great place to walk and to exercise your dogs, but please please consider the inhabitants of the site. Wherever you are on site, there are likely to be some Skylarks and even rarer Meadow Pipits trying to nest in the longer grass. The easiest way to help these birds succeed is by keeping to the obvious pathways and keeping your dog(s) with you on those tracks. Repeated disturbance by dogs that run through the grass and those that specifically ‘quarter’, such as spaniels, causes the birds to abandon their nests – it may be the eggs or the young that they abandon, but it will lead to breeding failure.

Having conducted a recent survey, we found ground-nesting birds almost everywhere across the site, but that some areas have higher densities than others. So you know where these areas are, we have produced a map. The red areas on the map (mostly downhill of the chalk track) show where the highest density were found, the blue are intermediate and the green area is where the lowest density were found.

These birds are already threatened, so please be mindful of their presence on site, at least until the end of the breeding season at the end of July/beginning of August. We are going to put up a few reminder signs around the two larger ‘red zone’ areas, but not in other bird populated areas but hope people will still think about the birds and keep to the paths with their dogs.

Thank you so much for your consideration

The Conservators of Therfield Heath & Greens

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Warden and Conservation Outreach Officer -Vacancy

If you have a love of landscapes, history and wildlife and are keen to help the public get more involved in championing and caring for special places this is an excellent opportunity.

We are looking for someone to join us and play a leading role in showcasing the Heath’s unique ecology, history, and conservation. Someone who can hit the ground running; highly organised, collaborative, creative, tenacious, and who has the gravitas and experience to help us maintain and improve the site.

Salary: £32,500 pa (£13,000 pro rata)

Hours: 14 hours per week

Contract: Fixed Term – 12 months

Expenses: Reasonable travel expenses and a phone will be provided  

Applicants should send a covering letter and CV, with two professional referees to Carol Fossick, Clerk clerk@therfieldheath.org.uk

Closing Date: Monday 15th March

Interviews: 25th and 26th March – initial interview will be held via Zoom.

The full job advertisement and person specification which sets out the role, responsibilities and required skills which can be downloaded here .

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Please be kind

On behalf of the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens may we remind all Heath and Greens visitors to be kind and respectful to their fellow visitors – everyone needs to be able to enjoy the Heath and Greens safely especially during these difficult times.

We are very grateful to everyone who remains vigilant to what’s happening on the Heath and to all those volunteers who’ve been helping by collecting litter.

We are working closely with the Police when we have reports of antisocial behaviour and we are very grateful for any information received.

If you see anything that seems or looks suspicious then please contact the police on 101, or 999 where there is a danger to life. 

Please note that our mobile phone 07449705345 is not manned 24/7 so please leave a message if there’s no answer and we will endeavour to respond as soon as possible. 

Thank you for your continued support in protecting the Heath and Greens for us all to enjoy.

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Update from the Chair of the Conservators on Elections and Public Meeting

Last February Clare Swarbrick was voted in as a conservator to represent the residents of the Special Drainage District of Royston and at her first meeting Ms Swarbrick received unanimous support to take over as chair.

Ms Swarbrick said: “It’s been a roller coaster of a year, with COVID-19. It’s been great that so many people have been enjoying Therfield Heath and Greens but with this has come pressure on infrastructure and maintenance. The Heath receives no funding from Town, District or County Councils and many of our tenants continue to be adversely affected by the crisis.

With the ongoing challenges around holding physical meetings, and government guidance that elections and canvassing cannot restart until at least May, we have taken the difficult decision to postpone February’s election for a representative of Special Drainage District of Royston and carry a vacancy until the next available opportunity. However, the Stint holder elections are able to go ahead, and official notices are published in this week’s Royston Crow.”

The Conservators remain committed to openness and transparency and have announced an online meeting for residents and visitors on Thursday 11th March at 19.30, for more information on this and the upcoming elections go to http://www.therfieldheath.org.uk/

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January 2021 Lockdown – update

This advice has been updated following the Government’s lockdown announcement  on 5 January 2021. 

We are asking all those who choose to visit the Heath to respect the current government advice on social distancing especially at the entrances and car park, which can get extremely busy.   We urge everyone to abide by the government’s latest advice which is to exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person. Exercise should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area. For more information please see National lockdown: Stay at Home – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The recent wet weather, and increased use of the Heath, has resulted in some sections of the pathways being extremely muddy.  Walkers should wear appropriate clothing and footwear and be prepared for muddy and slippery conditions.  

Following the new guidance will reduce the spread of Covid-19 and reduce pressure on the NHS.  

As always, please be considerate of others and the Heath’s wildlife and ecology.

Thank you for your co-operation

The Conservators

Operational Matters:

Car Parks – Please park with consideration to other visitors.  We would ask you to not block any entrances or prevent access for emergency vehicles.  Please do not park outside the car park, or on any grass areas which can so easily be churned up.

Golf Course – The golf course is closed at present.  Please do what you can to help the Golf Club successfully operate in a ‘covid-19 secure’ way and especially socially distance from the greenkeeping staff. Please consult the golf club for further information https://www.roystongolfclub.co.uk

Bins – With the increase in visitors and the potential reduction in our contractor numbers, we ask visitors to please take their litter and any dog-waste home with them for disposal.  Please do not leave your litter at the side of the bins; it not only presents a risk to wildlife that lives on the Heath but it also presents a health risk.

Cycling – cycling is not permitted on the Heath at any time.

Toilets – there are no public toilets on site. 

Refreshments – please visit the Heath Café website for details of their operating times and facilities https://www.roystonheath.co.uk

What can you do:

Social Distancing – Social distancing measures will reduce the risk of transmitting the virus between people.  For your own safety and well-being, please follow government advice in respect of social distancing and keep at least two metres between you and other visitors.  For the safety and wellbeing of others, please do not visit Therfield Heath if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are displaying symptoms of the virus (new dry cough and/or temperature).

Please remember there are a set of bye laws in place to protect the site and to keep visitors safe. Do please check these before you visit.  The bye laws are here The Bye Laws – The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens