Wildlife haven to become nature reserve

A former wasteland that has been transformed into a wildlife haven is to be formally designated a local nature reserve.

The Marl Allotment in Whixall was once a fly tipping hotspot, but the parish council and a team of volunteers have worked to clear the area and turn it into a valued public open space and recognised wildlife site.

Shropshire Council has now been asked to delegate responsibility to the parish council to designate it a local nature reserve (LNR).

The Marlot, as it is also known, is a six-acre area of common land between Whixall Moss and the canal, and is the seventh site in the county to be put forward for the designation since last October.

Shropshire Council says the status will raise the profile of the site, open up funding opportunities for further conservation work, recognise its value to both local people and wildlife, and offer extra protection from development.

The council has legal powers to dedicate new LNRs, as long as the area being proposed meets certain requirements and is in the authority’s ownership.

As it does not own the land, its cabinet must delegate authority to the parish council to make the designation.

A report by Clare Featherstone, Shropshire Council’s culture, leisure and tourism manager, says: “Environmental designation raises the profile with the public and can increase visitor usage and the health and wellbeing benefits this provides.

“LNR designations also provides some protection for the site’s nature conservation and recreation interest.”

If cabinet agrees, the parish council will be required to undertake the formalities with Natural England.

Enjoyment

Ms Featherstone says Natural England has carried out a site visit and supports the designation.

The report says the Marlot survived intact as common land at a time when the majority of England was in private ownership, and was protected by the Common Registration Act of 1965 which placed remaining common land in local authority ownership.

It has been managed by the parish council since 1975.

The report says: “Up to World War II it was used for rough grazing of stock and for digging up the agriculturally valuable mineral resource of marl, a crumbly limestone clay which would have been left behind by retreating ice-age glaciers.

“Marl was spread as a fertiliser on poor ground on the edge of Whixall Moss. The clay may also have been used to line the canal, which may explain why there are so many ponds on the common.”

After marl stopped being used as a fertiliser, the common became “overgrown” and “neglected”, and was used as a dumping ground for scrap metal, tyres and waste materials.

The report says: “Countryside Stewardship funding, post 2000, enabled Natural England staff and the parish council to undertake clearance work to remove dumped rubbish, manage the trees and undergrowth, clear pathways and provide picnic tables.

“In addition, the circular Whixall Mosses Trails have been established and the Marl Allotment has been incorporated as a valuable element of those routes.

“In 2006, the Whixall Environmental Group was created to continue the work and manage the site for the enhancement of biodiversity and the enjoyment of the local community.”

Cabinet will discuss the report at a meeting next Monday, June 7.

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