Commons Conservators Confirm Levy Rise

Higher charges going forward enable 10-year Land Management plan

The Conservators are responsible for Putney and Wimbledon Commons
The Conservators are responsible for Putney and Wimbledon Commons. Picture: WPCC

March 13, 2024

The Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators (WPCC) have formally agreed the levy for the fiscal year beginning this April which will see an 8.9% rise in the charge bringing it to £39.15 for a Band D council tax payer.

The increase, which saw substantial support from levy payers during a recent survey but was opposed by Merton and Wandsworth councils, is based on the RPI as of September last year.

During a meeting last month, the WPCC Board approved an aggregate levy of £1,622,642 for the 2024/25 fiscal year generating an additional £132,076 to bolster conservation efforts on Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath, and Putney Lower Common which span 1140 acres.

Initiated by the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act of 1871, the levy serves as the main source of funding for the maintenance and conservation of the Commons. The Act stipulates that properties located within three-quarters of a mile of Wimbledon Common (including Putney Heath) or within the historic Parish of Putney, as delineated in 1871, primarily benefit from the Commons and are thus subject to the levy.

Administered across three local authorities – Wandsworth, Merton, and Kingston – the levy is collected as a separate precept on the annual Council Tax statements of eligible properties.

"The Conservators remain steadfast in their mission to protect and enhance these invaluable green spaces for the benefit of current and future generations", said Chairman, Diane Neil Mills. "The continued support from the levy ensures that we can sustainably manage and conserve Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath, and Putney Lower Common for the enjoyment of all”.

The Board believes the consultation on rebasing the levy, allowing them to increase the charge by above the rate of inflation, gives them a mandate for higher rises and it has contacted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) regarding the matter.

On the assumption of a higher levy going forward, the Conservators have approved a comprehensive ten-year Land Management Plan (LMP). The Commons contain 900 acres designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), primarily due to the significance of their heathland and acid grassland. Moreover, they hold the designation of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), recognising its role as a habitat for the increasingly rare Stag Beetle.

The varied habitats of the Commons, including heathland, acid grassland, woodlands, riverine areas, and ponds, require specialised management to ensure their preservation. Smaller yet equally important habitats such as wayside verges, wet and boggy mires, and woodland glades also demand attention.

To address these conservation needs, WPCC's Conservation and Engagement Officer, Peter Haldane, has drawn up the plan which underscores the importance of landscape preservation, and identifies vulnerable areas requiring additional protection. The plan seeks to balance conservation efforts with the diverse needs of visitors who frequent these natural spaces.

"The Commons' LMP is a strategic document that outlines our long-term vision and objectives for the next decade," stated Chief Executive, Colin Cooper. "It will serve as a roadmap for our conservation endeavours, setting achievable targets for the short term while safeguarding the ecological integrity of these treasured landscapes."

Three of the current elected Conservators: Diane Neil Mills, David Hince and Peter Hirsch, having each completed two terms of three years, decided not to stand for re-election in WPCC’s 2024 election. At their recent Board meeting, the Conservators recorded their gratitude to all three for their commitment and dedication to the Commons during their terms of office. Diane Neil Mills, first elected in 2018, has served as Chairman of the Conservators for the past six years and in that capacity has led a number of initiatives including work on the charity’s governance arrangements and rebasing of the levy. David Hince, also first elected in 2018, has been a member of a number of committees including the Financial and Investment Committee. Peter Hirsch, also first elected in 2018, has served on the Audit and Risk Committee throughout his tenure and in that capacity has supported the committee’s function of scrutinising charity processes and identifying risks. Their terms will officially end on 3 April.

The election for new Conservators concluded on 6 March and the newly elected Conservators will take up office on 3 April 2024.

One of the three appointed Conservators – Nigel Ware, appointed by the Home Office – will reach the end of his second three-year term on 13 March and has decided not to seek re-appointment for a further term.

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