23rd January Richard Cottam writes..............

I have written this piece as a way of introducing myself as Havering Councils Wildspace Community Liaison Officer, yes I know what you are thinking, another Council officer with an exaggerated job title, read on however it may not be a bad as it seems.

The Wildspace Community Liaison Officers are partly funded by the Governments nature watchdog, English Nature. The idea behind the post is for the officer is to work towards obtaining a number of areas designated as Local Nature Reserves (LNR's). This helps towards English Nature's target of 1 hectare of LNR for every thousand people. Havering Council have been awarded funding to employ a Wildspace Officer for two years to arrange for three LNR's to be designated within the borough. We hope that these will include Dagnam Park and Duck Wood. The other sites under consideration are the Ingrebourne Marshes in Hornchurch and the Councils land at Rainham Marshes.

Now I can hear you all thinking what is an LNR and what has it got to do with me? Let me start by answering the first question.

LNR's are for both people and wildlife. They are places with wildlife or geological features that are of special interest locally, which give people special opportunities to study and learn about them or enjoy and have contact with nature. With LNR designation comes better protection of the sites, more opportunities for funding and a commitment by the local authority to maintain the sites special interest.

Now this is where you come in. Within the designation process local communities need to be involved, these reserves are "local" after all, and who knows them better than the local people who use them on a day to day basis. For the sites in Harold Hill the community has already been involved, as the original plan was for only Duck Wood. Local residents however ask why Dagnam Park could not be designated and so this area is also being looked at.

There are other things that also need to be done before a site can be declared, such as writing a management plan and setting up a management group that includes local participation. It is then a case of getting it all okayed by English Nature and the designation ratified by the Councillors. Fairly simple then, no not quite, although a fairly simple process it can be hard work bringing it all together but then that's what they pay me for.

To finish of this piece I will tell you a little about myself, just in case, by some stretch of the imagination, you're wondering. I have lived locally for most of my 34 years; the bulk of my time out of the area was my 9 years in the RAF. Since leaving the Air Force I took up a new career within the environment and have worked for a small charity on the Lea Navigation Canal in East London, a national charity who runs the Tidy Britain Campaign and the London Wildlife Trust over the border in Barking and Dagenham.

Richard Cottam
Wildspace Community liaison Officer