On the 25th July, the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens will hold a public consultation on their Heath Management Plan and a new Countryside Stewardship funding application. This will be in the Lower Town Hall, Royston, starting at 7:30pm. All welcome.
As some users of the Heath have noticed, on Thursday evenings, archers from Royston Heath Archery Club have switched the direction of our club shoot from East-to-West to West-to-East. This change was implemented after consultation with the Heath Conservators and rigorous evaluations of our safety guidelines and risk assessments.
We would like to share our reasons behind this and ease any concerns other Heath users may have. We shoot outdoors on Thursday evenings, May through August. On sunny evening shoots, our normal Sunday morning orientation can be uncomfortable for our members shooting towards a setting sun. Changing the shooting direction so the sun is to our backs has alleviated this issue. On cloudy evening we will still shoot East-to-West where possible.
As a club we follow strict rules provided by our national governing body, ArcheryGB. Members are bound by these rules as a condition of our participation at the club. Our range layout follows the detailed safety guidelines as defined in part 3, section 302 of ArcheryGBs rules of shooting. The club must ensure these standards are met or exceeded as a condition of our insurance coverage and our affiliation with Archery GB.
When we shoot, we rope off the area to ensure we have clearly marked boundaries. We also put signs up to alert other Heath users to our presence. Our range is managed by a field captain, who controls the range with whistle commands to indicated when it is safe for archers to shoot and when it is safe to collect arrows from the targets. In practice, the range is live for less than half the time the club is on the field. The remainder of the time is spent collecting arrows from targets, setting up and packing away.
We are always vigilant for any Heath users, their pets or sports equipment entering our range and our club members are drilled on the procedures to bring our shoot to an immediate halt until the range is clear again and it is safe for us to continue with our session. We appreciate it may seem unnerving if you feel someone is shooting towards you, however we are confident that the size of our range and our overshoot are more then sufficient to contain any arrow that may miss the target. We pride ourselves in having a very safe sport that welcomes everyone. Please feel free to get in touch (https://www.roystonarchery.org/) if there are any specific concerns.
SITE MANAGER ROLE DESCRIPTOR
Therfield Heath and Greens is an area of Common Land near Royston, Hertfordshire, and most of it is a Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is owned by the Therfield Regulation Trust, which is a registered charity. It is managed by the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens.
We seek to appoint a Site Manager, who will take responsibility to lead the day-to-day operations, administration and accounting, and advise on matters of governance and procedure. You will need to have experience of managing people (staff and volunteers), ensuring that we achieve our objectives for income generation, biodiversity, community engagement, inclusion & so much more besides.
Hours: approx. 24 hours per week, flexible
Location: Working from home with visits to Therfield Heath and Greens and meeting rooms and venues used for Conservator and other meetings
Salary: £22,000 per year (gross)
Expenses: Internet and phone allowance: £26 per month plus other office items
Equipment: Computer, monitor, phone, webcam and headset will be provided
Description of Responsibilities
- Lead the vision & direction for the site working with Conservators, staff and volunteers
- Act as first point of contact from the public and other parties face to face, via email, telephone and mail within working hours including handling requests for information
- Recruit, manage, develop staff and volunteers & drive performance of the whole team.
- Work with the Conservation Manager to effectively deliver agreed objectives, and to plan, organise & co-ordinate diverse activities to maximise visitor experience & income potential.
- Attend monthly internal meetings and quarterly external meetings of the Conservators, prepare agendas, take minutes, perform follow up activities and monitor actions working with the Chair (acting as Company Secretary)
- Working with Conservators and our legal advisors lead on all legal matters and permissions including Natural England consents, Commons consents etc. [Advice and assistance will be provided to assist you understand the consent process.]
- Lead the key partner relationships at a strategic level & support your team to create and sustain constructive local partnerships.
- Work to proactively engage with the local community.
- Develop and manage the site’s budget plan to deliver objectives working with Conservators.
- Maintain accurate financial records including revenue and expenses and the preparation of monthly/yearly accounts and forecasts.
- Be responsible for ensuring the safe management of all site operations.
- Working with the Conservation Manager to offer support as needed to assist manage contractors and manage event and permit applications.
- Work actively with Conservators & partners to secure external grant income for a range of projects, programmes on the Heath & Greens the wider landscape.
- Project manage large/medium projects to ensure all our strategic targets are achieved & objectives met.
- Manage all information maintaining paper and electronic files and records so they remain up to date and easily accessible. Implement and comply with Document retention Policy and ensure online information is regularly and effectively backed up.
- Working with the Conservation Manager manage and update the website (WordPress) and social media.
- Working with the Chair and Conservators offer support as needed to assist external accountants and Conservators in preparation of annual accounts
- Perform other duties as assigned
Knowledge, skills and experience
- Excellent interpersonal, communication and organisational skills
- Proven ability to work independently, establish priorities, and meet deadlines
- Ability to think critically, suggest changes and continuous improvement to processes to enhance organisational effectiveness
- Ability to interact confidently and effectively with colleagues, and external contacts (e.g. accountant, contracted Legal teams) as well as the public
- Excellent communication skills, comfortable working with a wide variety of audiences and stakeholders
- Good working knowledge of common software programs including Microsoft Office, PowerPoint, Excel and Word and ideally maintenance of webpages using WordPress
- Basic finance and bookkeeping knowledge
- Familiarity or experience working in a not-for-profit environment
- Understanding of Common Land Law & Heath and Greens History
- Interest in conservation and ecology
Applicants should send a CV and covering letter, together with details of 2 professional referees by email to clerk(at)therfieldheath.org.uk
Closing Date: Sunday 30th July at 5pm.
Interviews will be held week commencing 7th August at a mutually convenient location.
The Chair of the Conservators wrote the following reply in response to a letter received from Sir Oliver Heald MP, expressing concern about recent statements on siting of the Kite Festival from 2024 onwards.
This letter is published with permission from Sir Oliver.
31st May 2023
Dear Sir Oliver,
Thank you for your email about the Kite Festival. The Conservators welcome the chance to explain more fully what has happened. We endorsed this letter at our meeting yesterday and have discussed its contents with the Rotary Club, although this is not a joint communication. The Conservators are not opposed to the Kite Festival however we do have concerns about the scale of the event, the amount of car parking requested (1200 cars), the impact on the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the general environmental impact of the event. The Kite Festival is compatible both with the objectives of the Therfield Regulation Trust and the Conservators.
Both the Conservators and Rotary are volunteer and democratic organisations. This means that although individuals from the two groups meet and discuss matters, the final decisions have to be taken at representative meetings after discussion, either by consensus or a vote. There is a range of opinions amongst the Conservators and the agreed position often is a compromise that no one fully agrees with. It is probably the same with Rotary. This has to be then fed back to the other organisation. This is a slow process.
For the past two years we have been working with Rotary to find an alternative site on the Heath for the Kite Festival. We have made a proposal to move the arena off an area of SSSI which Rotary have rejected, and they have made one that we could not accept in full. There comes a point each year where Rotary say they need a firm decision to allow them to complete arrangements. When it came to the final decision, we have always allowed the Kite Festival to continue in the same way as it has. This year we did the same but pressed Rotary to produce a plan, acceptable to both sides, for next year. Rotary believed that all options for moving the event had already been discussed and rejected by one side or the other and so decided to see if they could find another site, hence their press release. We have not said no to a kite festival for 2024, but we still want to modify the event. Rotary concluded looking for a different site might be their only option for 2024.
It might be helpful to lay out our thinking in more detail, and with your permission, we will put this letter on our website for the people of Royston to consider before we make a decision on 2024.
It is a civil offence to drive or park on a Common other than in a designated car park. This not only allows the Conservators to enforce parking, but the Conservators could be pursued for loss caused by allowing parking outside designated car parks. This happened on a common near Bristol Zoo where the council and common owners allowed overflow parking. In a case backed by the Open Spaces Society local people obtained a large out of court settlement. The main car park for the Heath will only hold around 300 cars. We have allowed extra car parking for the Kite Festival, but it is dependent on the weather conditions.
The current site for the Kite Festival is part of the Therfield Heath SSSI. The citation for the SSSI states “The site contains some of the richest chalk grassland in England”. As agreed with Natural England in the recent Habitat Management Plan, the best practical regime, other than grazing, for the highest quality grassland on the Heath SSSI is to ‘cut and collect’, i.e., mow and remove the clippings, once a year from September to March when the plants, insects and birds have largely completed their life cycle. The area of the Kite Festival is not in the highest category of grassland but would improve for nature with a regime closer to best practice. The problem with holding the Kite Festival in early August is that area really needs to be cut regularly from mid-March to give a good surface and to prevent ground nesting birds nesting, which would prevent us cutting the grass later. We were rather late this year but did not find any nests in the area to be cut, which allowed us to proceed. Since the golf club stopped using this area as a golf driving range several years ago, the main reason to cut this area regularly is the Kite Festival. There is also the carbon footprint of cutting the grass to consider. Rotary have recently covered the financial cost.
Funding opportunities for the Habitat Management Plan (which is broadly supported by local people) means we need to assure management regimes to get Rural Payments Agency (RPA) money to manage the Heath. At the moment there are several separate agreements with the Conservators, Golf Club and Racing Stables, each have different detailed conditions. We have just applied, with the agreement of the other stake holders, for a new unified scheme for the whole Heath. We have applied to keep a flexible cutting regime for the kite festival area, so a decision for 2024 remains with us.
We explored with Rotary whether the Kite Festival could be held off the SSSI in the area between the golf club house and the Heath Café. This was on the cards for some time but unfortunately the kite flyers decided there was a high risk of not having enough wind in that area. They did think it would be possible to hold the kite flying on the area west of the main carpark, where archery often practice. This however was the area traditionally used for extra car-parking during the kite festival. Rotary then proposed using most of the area in front of the Heath Café for parking. We were not happy with this and wanted to limit it to not going beyond the line of the tennis courts. We did not want the most popular area of the Heath for recreation being used as a car park particularly as Rugby and the Heath Café would have a case for compensation if this area was damaged by the car parking, which could happen if weather was unfavourable in the run up to the event.
We also suggested they might be able to park some cars at the other end near the golf club and had put Rotary in touch with the golf club to explore this, but Rotary concluded that the single width drive into the golf club made this unworkable and were not sure they could marshal two car park areas. We also suggested they could try finding some off-site parking such as Tannery Drift School, the town Centre, or approaching Johnson Matthey who probably use much less car parking on a Sunday. Rotary felt that people would instead park in nearby roads, rather than parking further away, annoying local residents and encouraging families with young children to cross a busy road. Laying on minibus transfers would reduce the money raised for charity and would not be practical.
We also suggested the event could be held on the original kite festival site but in Mid-September to give time to cut the grass at least twice after bird nesting and flowering was over. A single cut may not be enough for the event, and we cannot control the weather. Rotary have not ruled this out, but they need time to confirm that their Kite Flyers, suppliers, members and other volunteers would be available later in the year.
We are happy to support recreation on the Heath including organised Events, but we also have to comply with our statutory duties including allowing people access at all times to Common Land. We also want to keep the SSSI in good condition. As the town continues to grow, and particularly since Covid when there has been more use of green spaces, we have to balance the demand for individual “air and recreation” with the demand for organised activities. This highlights the lack of alternative spaces in Royston for sport, allotments and events, despite NHDC targets as part of the local plan. Increased provision via new space we understand is now on hold until at least 2031 and the next local plan.
The Conservators are a small group of elected volunteers, who have an increasingly difficult and time-consuming balancing act between the various demands for activities on the Heath, our desire to protect the environment and biodiversity and the complex legal frameworks we have to operate in. We know we will not be able to satisfy everyone, and we may ask people to change the way they have done things in the past. We have met with Rotary in the last fortnight and both sides are agreed to keep dialogue open.
Chair Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens
This statement follows recent announcements from the Rotary Club of Royston about seeking an alternative site for the kite festival.
The current timing and location of the kite festival involves cutting the grass on part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) earlier than best practice (because of the protected breeding ground nesting birds). We have been discussing with Rotary for the past few years either moving the kite festival later, after the grass has been cut at the correct time, or holding it on the non-SSSI area around the Heath Café, and are happy to discuss either of these further.
NHDC LOCAL PLAN SSSI MITIGATION NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE
Public statement & email to councillors from the statutory managers of Therfield Heath and Greens.
7th November 2022
We are invested in NHDC having a Local Plan and seek to maximise the protection of public open green space. In the current year we have spent more than 12% of income and significant volunteer effort protecting from encroachment, trespass and unwelcome development across the spaces we manage.
As statutory managers of the majority of the publicly accessible parts of Therfield Heath SSSI the Conservators and our Head of Conservation welcomed being part of the process to develop the mitigations.
However, we do not feel that the strategy document, and the collection of disparate actions it outlines, is fit for purpose. What is missing is any sense of how the proposed mitigation actions (in the tables at the end) achieve the overall goal; mitigation of recreational impact caused by short term and future development. We believe that the effect of the proposals should be quantified and there are no measures of success or indicators of progress. This is fundamental to any strategy and funding should be set aside to monitor and evaluate progress (as is encouraged by National Lottery/Natural England funding). The need for appropriate monitoring is included Statement of Common Ground between NHDC and NE signed in November Microsoft Word – NHDC SoCG Nov 2017 – Natural England November 2017 (V7).docx (north-herts.gov.uk)
As the Conservators and Natural England (NE) have consistently said the biggest single mitigation to increased recreational pressure caused by additional housing is to provide alternative recreation site(s) that can share the load. The Statement of Common Ground “acknowledged that there are likely to be significant negative effects on the SSSI due to recreational pressures”. A strategy that does not face this reality, but instead calls for “access management”, contrary to the Trust’s objective and the statutory purpose of the Conservators, both of which are focussed on the Heath being used by the neighbourhood, is fundamentally flawed. It is also contrary to NHDC policy which expects all residents of Royston and the neighbourhood to have access to a 100ha green space within 5km. Reducing recreational pressure on the SSSI contradicts the council’s policy unless another 100ha space is to become available?
The Heath is a very high-quality site for air, exercise and recreation as evidenced by daily visitor numbers and any alternative space needed to mitigate recreational impact will need to be of equal or greater amenity value to attract people away. Such space would necessarily provide very high-quality space for walking, dog walking, a parkrun, and pitch sports and other recreational pressures.
Perhaps most disappointing is that we feel so much is simply kicked down the road to the next local plan in 2031 or beyond. We appreciate the difficult fiscal climate but this strategy and indeed the council’s undertaking is not about future local plans, it is about measures that will quantifiably mitigate recreational pressures in this local plan, as new housing built between now and 2031. In the report you rule out Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space (SANG) and sport provision before 2031, preferring to suggest that a suite of reports will have a quantifiable effect to mitigate recreational pressure in the years to 2031. We do not feel reports alone will deliver mitigation and measures that do not deliver quantifiable mitigation in the lifetime of the current local plan should not be in the document.
Let me be clear, we do not wish to jeopardise the Adoption of the NHLP and remain ready to work collaboratively and constructively on the next phase.
Chair, Conservators Therfield Heath and Greens
We are pleased to announce that by 5pm Friday 11 February there were two nominations made for the two available Conservator roles. Therefore a formal vote – as previously advertised – is not needed as we have only one person standing for each role.
The Conservators therefore invite everyone to come to Royston Town Hall on Thursday 24th February 2022 for an open meeting which will commence at 7:30pm.
The open meeting at 7:30pm will cover
- the conservation work that has taken place during 2021 ;
- our plans for 2022
- a sharing of the 2021 accounts.
Before the open meeting starts at 7:30pm Mr Clive Hall will be formally re-elected for a 3 year term as Conservator for the SDDR and Mr Robert Law will be formally re-elected for a 3 year term as Conservator for the stint holders.
We look forward to seeing you on Thursday 24th February 2022 7:30pm for this open meeting.
There is a historic ‘green waste’ pile on the heath containing brash (clippings from hedges, shrubs, or other plants). Traditionally these clipping have been burnt on metal sheets and the ash removed from site in accordance with the guidance given to Conservators. In 2020/21 Covid-19 lockdowns and other measures meant that work was delayed or deferred. However a decision has now been taken that, weather permitting, the Conservators intend to undertake this step on 8/9 January 2022. Anyone near the burn site should be aware and stay safe following any guidance given by those on site. If there are any questions or concerns do please inform us ; email email@example.com or our Head of Conservation on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, and for the coming few days, you may see some works occurring on the Heath (opposite Downlands). These are permitted works occurring in order that AWL can locate and/or check part of their water infrastructure. Permission for the digging (there will be a small hole) and associated safety signs and fencing has been given by the Conservators.
If you have any concerns or questions then you may contact us via the clerk “Clerk@therfieldheath.org.uk” or our Head of Conservation “Conservation@therfieldheath.org.uk”. The works should be concluded by the end of the week.
Those who joined the open meeting last week will have been introduced to Dr Keep who applied for the role of SDDR candidate. There is some information about Dr Keep on the 2021 election tab and this will be moved to the Conservator page shortly.
Dr Keep will be formally elected into his role tonight. Because there was only one candidate there is no need for the wider SDDR electorate to attend and vote. Therefore you may clear the election details from your diaries!
Going forward the Conservators are due to have further elections in February 2022 and the details of these will be advertised and shared on this website and via social media early in 2022. Arrangements will take account of any Covid 19 rules (or other guidance) in force at the time.