We are well aware of the controversy over the filling in of the bike tracks and jumps on Hayes Common and removal of the dens that local children had made. We can well understand the disappointment of both parents and children at the move, especially in recent times when the common provided such respite from domestic lockdown.
It seems the works were carried out in response to reports of excessive damage to the Common – particularly trees – as well as being an enforcement of existing by-laws. While the Council has generally taken a pragmatic approach to enforcement of these by-laws it appears that some additional recent damage to the trees and surroundings had meant action had to be taken.
The full official explanation for the works is as follows:
On 17th March 2021 idverde received written concerns regarding the existence and extent of the area used for bike jumps. The concern was based primarily around the safety risk posed to both the users of the jumps and other site users. Upon further inspection we found jumps of significant size which we deemed to be dangerous. In addition to this, trees in the immediate vicinity had been vandalised and one had its root base excavated which resulted in that particular tree unfortunately having to be felled due to the risk it presented.
Hayes Common is a Local Nature Reserve and part of a Site of Scientific Interest, as well as Common Land. The presence of such a feature as well as the activity itself contravenes a number of the bye laws for common land.
As a Local Nature Reserve the significant level of ground disturbance from digging and the repeated use by bicycles has resulted in a large area of bare ground where flora is unable to grow. Combined with the damage to trees in the vicinity this represents a real ecological concern. A similar issue exists with the construction of dens which result in large volumes of timber dangerously stacked against trees, often for long periods of time. These structures are unstable and dangerous and could arguably represent an increased fire risk during periods of dry weather. The removal of dead wood from the woodland floor negatively impacts the wider woodland ecology by reducing the surface are of deadwood in contact with the soil which again in a Local Nature Reserve is an important consideration.
It is standard working practice for us to take such action when informal structures are built within our parks as it is considered anti-social behaviour/vandalism and also create serious health and safety issues for other users. We sincerely appreciate the impact of Covid and the strain it has on many young people. We’ve seen a significant increase in numbers of visitors to our parks and open spaces over the last year, and this is forcing us to observe our duty of care more sensibly. While a minority of users may enjoy using such a feature we have a duty of care to all site users, particularly when the act contravenes the bye laws in place. This was the second bike track which we had been made aware of in Hayes Common, the first in February which was also filled in.
As your local councillors, we were disappointed at the breakdown in communication between the contractors, Council, councillors and other interested groups which led to the current position; this is currently being looked into to ensure a repeat situation does not occur.
Clearly it would be preferable to see solutions that respect the wishes of all users of our Common and open spaces, including generations both present and future. Each of us councillors have been users of the common either in our own youth, with our children or, in one case, now grandchild.
Furthermore the continued attractiveness of the Common is due in no small part to the tireless efforts of the Friends of Hayes Common and we greatly appreciate all that they do.