To receive a report from the Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager (DCC) informing Members of the work that has taken place to date.
Consideration was given to a report * of the Public Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager.
Tree work by contractors
The largest job undertaken by tree surgeons along the canal this winter had been the felling of two Ash trees near Tidcombe Bridge. Both had been suffering from Ash Dieback.
New information panels in the Canal Basin
Two new panels had been installed in the Canal Basin. At the car park level, near TS Hermes, there was a new orientation panel which provided a map of the Canal Basin and detailed some of the highlights including the kilns. Feedback from the public had been very positive.
Manley silt trap
Beside Manley Bridge there was an ephemeral stream which drains run-off from Manley Lane into the canal. The stream brings in a lot of silt during storms and each spring a large excavator must be brought in to spot dredge the canal where the stream enters, so that the horse drawn barge and other boats don’t run aground. The new silt trap should intercept most of the silt before it entered the canal.
An inspection had been carried out and a number of recommendations made with regard to the repairs needed, however, due to a number of various delays and distractions, the work could not be completed before Easter and so would need to be postponed until the autumn. The repairs needed were not classed as dangerous or critical.
Tilting weir alterations
The Canal Manager did not have complete confidence in the automatic control system described to the Committee in previous meetings and so it had been reprogrammed to offer him the capacity to operate it remotely. This was done by logging into a website and setting the percentage of full capacity he wished the weir to open and close to.
Over the winter the Canal Rangers and volunteers had spent several days coppicing and winching out trees in and around the pond situated between Boehill Bridge and Holbrook Bridge in order to let more light in and allow more plant life, such as Marsh Marigolds, to establish.
Daffodil bulb planting
A County Council sponsored apprentice is currently working at both the Canal and Stover Country Park and has been very helpful in helping staff and volunteers recently involved in planting hundreds of daffodil bulbs at the entrance to the Canal Basin. This apprenticeship scheme is designed to give youngsters an environmental NVQ qualification and practical experience.
New content on visitor centre touchscreen
Visitor suggestions had included a number of children wanting more touchscreen interactive games in the Visitor Centre. The Canal Manager had become aware of some bat related games that had been developed for use on touchscreen systems and it was felt that the games and information provided would provide a fun way of raising awareness about the amazing lives that bat species lead.
Embankment badger barriers – 2010 case history and future works
In 2010, an application was made to Natural England (NE) to either have the badgers culled or relocated, but this was refused, as the local NE wildlife officer felt that other options which would enable the badgers to remain had not been fully explored. As there were no secondary setts known of in the area the badgers could not simply be excluded and the building of an artificial sett was not thought to be viable at that time due to issues around costs and land availability.
Eventually following lengthy discussions with DCC’s engineers and the NE wildlife officer, a plan was devised to use scaffold poles to build a frame through which 2cm thick, 3m long steel rods would be inserted along the canal bank at a spacing of 7cm, thereby creating an impenetrable barrier to the badgers. Insertion through the 1.5m high frame would ensure that the rods remained at 7cm spacings, even at 3m below ground level. A badger licence for this work was applied for and was received in December 2011.
Whilst there had been some local consternation at the cost in money and labour of undertaking these works DCC has a strong case in arguing that it had no option but to act within the law and to obtain the necessary Natural England support and consents in order to carry out the works that were necessary to safeguard the Canal and the town below. DCC had to comply with the rules laid down by the law and Natural England. It was recognised that this was a very difficult situation.
As the badgers have now extended their burrows along the embankment, work will shortly take place to extend the line of steel rods along the whole embankment. The towpath would be closed during the works and a diversion would be waymarked. A Badger Licence from Natural England had been secured to enable the works to proceed.
It was suggested that a possible way of removing the badgers from the embankment would be to build an artificial set in a nearby locality, perhaps as a wildlife interest with unobtrusive camera recording their activity which might be of interest to some enthusiasts.
Discussion took place regarding how unhelpful it was that a local resident was allegedly feeding the badgers. It was suggested that some publicity be undertaken asking members of the public not to exacerbate the situation by feeding the badgers and that contact be made with the local MP bringing the significance of the situation to his attention. The Public Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager also stated that a contingency plan would be drawn up addressing any potential flooding issues, she also stated that it was important not to cause alarm to the public. DCC was doing all it could and was working proactively with Natural England to provide a solution within the law.