Common Lands

BROOMFIELD PARISH COUNCIL 

Policy on Management of Broomfield Common and Broomfield Hill Common 

4 September 2012 

Background 

There is little documented history of the Broomfield Common Lands (Broomfield Common and Broomfield Hill Common) but the following summarises the findings of an examination of files held by Broomfield Parish Council.

In 1972 there was a court decision that the Common Lands have no owner and are therefore subject to protection under section 9 of the Commons Registration Act 1965.

In 1974 the Commons were placed under the joint protection of Broomfield Parish Council (BPC), Sedgemoor District Council (SDC) and Somerset County Council (SCC). A management plan for Broomfield Common was produced but foundered on grounds of cost and Commoners’ rights.

Between 1976 and 1993 there is some evidence of informal management actions by local volunteers under the auspices of BPC.

In 1993 there was a proposal by BPC to fell 48 trees on Broomfield Common and use the proceeds for work on the Village Hall and Car Park. This was extremely controversial and objections by some parishioners led to the withdrawal of support by SDC and SCC. Work did not proceed.

In 1994 a new SCC management plan again foundered due to unanswered questions on costs and responsibilities.

In 2002 the AONB Service proposed making the Commons local nature reserves. However objections from residents led to a negative response from BPC supported by Friends of the Quantocks.

Between 2002 and 2004 attempts were made by BPC to claim ownership of the Commons with no success.

In 2005 BPC made an application to the Land Registry to place a caution against first registration of the Commons. 

Commoners’ Rights (Appendix 1) 

Grazing of 100 sheep by Westleigh Farmer and 80 sheep by Duckspool Farmer on Broomfield Hill Common

Broomfield householders able to cut 50 three inch stakes annually on Broomfield Common/Broomfield Hill Common.

Declaration of shooting right for Broomfield Parish members made by the Parish Council in 1973 on Broomfield Common/Broomfield Hill Common.

As far as is known none of these rights are currently exercised.

County Wildlife Site (Appendix 2) 

Broomfield Common & Churchman’s Copse & Woodney Copse is one of 1800 County Wildlife Sites in Somerset that have been recognised by the Somerset Environmental Records Centre as being especially important for wildlife. They have no statutory designation but there are guidelines for their management.

Current Situation

Broomfield Parish Council funds the cutting of paths on both Commons by a local contractor. There is no other formal intervention, although it is recognised that several local residents believe they have a long standing right to collect fallen wood. The Parish Council does however appear to be responsible for keeping rights of way clear of fallen and dangerous trees, in the absence of any funding from SDC or SCC for this work.

Broomfield Common is an extensive wooded area of mainly secondary broad-leaved woodland with former coppice and plantation. There are a large number of fallen and semi-fallen trees making access difficult in places.

Broomfield Hill Common is mixed with some open areas mostly covered with bracken and other wooded areas, containing some quite ancient trees.

Management Policy 

Broomfield Parish Council intends to follow the guidelines contained in Appendix 2 with the primary aim of preserving the Commons as a haven for wildlife and a place of peace and quiet for visitors on foot.

The guidelines state that non-intervention management, i.e. choosing not to undertake any management work in all or part of a woodland, is an acceptable form of management for wildlife.

In collaboration with the AONB Service some environmental enhancement projects may be undertaken, such as the installation of bird or bat boxes.

The Parish Council will continue to fund the cutting of paths on the Commons, to allow access to walkers and horse riders. It will also ensure that rights of way are kept clear. In the event that fallen trees are blocking rights of way or in danger of doing so, then local residents who help with the clearance of such trees will be allowed to take the wood away for their private use, in exchange for their help.

Whilst it may be desirable to reduce the amount of bracken on Broomfield Hill Common, no funding currently exists for this.

The Parish Council does not encourage Parishioners to take up Commoners’ rights and it should also be noted that these do not include the collection of fallen wood or the right to take a vehicle onto the Common Lands.

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