A public consultation is to be held to gauge opinion on plans for some community fields in Lancaster.
In March 2013, the Fairfield Association, a community-based Lancaster environmental charity, announced that it had been awarded a substantial grant (nearly £100,000) from the Heritage LotteryFund which, when added to an even larger amount donated by local people, would enable it to
purchase the land (called Flora) that it wanted.
This added nearly 26 acres to its established 16-acre Fauna nature reserve.
The Flora land has now been acquired and the association is currently completing the purchase of further land (nearly six acres) between Fauna and Flora, effectively making the area one big nature reserve of nearly 50 acres.
The charity’s next step is to hold a public consultation to let the public know its current plans for Flora, and to get feedback on them before proceeding.
The public consultation will take place in the Friends Meeting House in Meeting House Lane, near Lancaster railway station and will run from 1pm to 7pm on Friday, September 6 and from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, September 7.
Graphics, photographs and text describing the plans will be presented and refreshments will be available.
Members of the Fairfield Association, a wildlife expert and a landscape architect will also be on hand to answer questions and explain the plans.
Visitors to the public consultation will be asked to comment separately on detailed aspects of the plans, using a specially-designed questionnaire.
In summary, the intention is to improve the area for local people and wildlife by using conservation and traditional farming practices.
This work could include:
• Introducing ponds and scrapes for wetland birds and small mammals;
• Changing the layout of the fields to increase the amount of hedgerow available for wildlife;
• Introducing broad wildflower margins at the edges of the fields;
• Making some of the fields available for cattle grazing, as in the established Fauna reserve;
• Using some of the fields for spring-grown cereals, which it is hoped will attract lapwing and other wetland birds to the reserve, provide food for birds and small mammals and also more cover for hares and other mammals;
• Extending and improving the copse of mature trees called Pony Wood.
In addition to conserving the local landscape in wildlife-friendly ways, the association hopes to establish a new footpath giving the public delightful new views over Flora and Fauna to Lancaster Castle, Morecambe Bay and beyond.
Andrew Brennand, the Fairfield Association chairman, said: “We are all excited with our plans and are anxious to share our enthusiasm with other Lancastrians and get their views on what we propose.”
The association has already raised getting on for £300,000 to buy the land it has, and is, acquiring but it will need substantial further funds to make the conservation changes it wants to make.
“It is hoped that part of this funding will come from Natural England and its Higher Level Stewardship farm subsidy programme, which already gives the association some annual financial support for the Fauna nature reserve. Indeed, the plans to be unveiled have been drawn up in close consultation with experts from Natural England, in order to arrive at the best possible environment for local wildlife.
The Heritage Lottery Fund project which has helped the association to buy the Flora fields also has a learning component, which will begin on September 19 with a talk and question and answer session in the Storey Institute.
Hilary and Mick Short, two long-standing Fairfield Association trustees, will give an illustrated talk: The Fairfield Association and Flora: Past, Present, Plans and Possibilities.
This will be the first of a series of Flora-related talks and activities, which will continue until Spring 2014.
Other parts of the Heritage Lottery Fund funding will be used to provide 1. Learning activities for children in local primary and secondary schools and in FLORA; 2. Training for volunteers to help them to maintain the reserve; 3. An end-of-project two-day public exhibition in Lancaster City Centre about FLORA, its heritage and the Fairfield Association’s longer-term plans for conserving and managing the FLORA reserve.