A LOCAL nature reserve (LNR) could soon be declared after a decision was made to delegate the power to a council.

Woodstock Town Council requested that West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) give them the authority to declare an LNR at Woodstock water meadows.

WODC approved the request during a cabinet meeting last week.

An LNR is a protected area of land designated by a local authority because of its local special natural interest, and where possible, educational and community value.

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Local authorities can create LNRs, while town and parish councils can create them if the district council has given them the power to do so.

This meant Woodstock Town Council did not have the power to declare an LNR until it was delegated so by the district council.

During a meeting in October, the town council approved a motion to designate Woodstock water meadows as an LNR.

In a letter addressed to Giles Hughes, chief executive of WODC, Cherie Carruthers, Woodstock town clerk, said: “The water meadows were granted to the town in a charter of King Henry VI, dated May 24, 1453.

“Whilst the town council is committed to retaining the natural characteristics of the area, there is a need for regular maintenance, particularly the requirement to keep to reasonable levels of the amount of Himalayan balsam which, if left unattended, would swamp other plant life in the meadow.”

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In the recent WODC meeting, the cabinet agreed to delegate power to Woodstock Town Council.

Jeff Haine, cabinet member for strategic planning at WODC, said at the meeting: “There are only two local nature reserves in West Oxfordshire, one of those in Charlbury and the other in Tackley.

“WODC can recommend a site for designation of a local nature reserve but doesn’t have the authority to grant it, that authority has to come from Natural England.”

David Harvey, cabinet member for climate change at WODC, added: “It’s all part and parcel of our work to enhance the natural environment and boost biodiversity.”

The item was quickly agreed by the cabinet with little discussion by councillors.

Jeff Haine

Jeff Haine

District councillors Jeff Haine and David Harvey

David Harvey

Woodstock water meadows covers five and a half hectares of land, situated on the flood plain of the River Glyme.

Since June 2016, The Wychwood Project has been contracted to manage the site on behalf of Woodstock Town Council.

Since then, the charity has hosted open days and talks, undertaken bird surveys, and maintained paths to provide access for the public.

It has also recruited volunteers to help with the removal of the non-native Himalayan balsam.

The meadows have in fact in recent times been grazed by Dexter cattle to help control the Himalayan balsam.

There are over 1,000 LNRs in England, however only two in West Oxordshire.

These are Crecy Hill in Tackley and the Saltway, near Charlbury.