FAQ - Estates Residents

Someone has probably asked your question before, so please first look through the general policies we have set out on Play Areas, Pets, Paths/Estate Roads, Grassland, Trees, Hedges, Foraging, Water, Decomposer Habitat, Rewilding and Biodiversity generally. These can all be found at www.bettsecology.co.uk/policies/.  Remember — we are not like other contracting land managers: we put biodiversity and bioabundance first. Why? Please see our policy entitled Biodiversity — what it is and how it is relevant to our Public Open Spaces.

There are also some common FAQs and answers below:

Why is our grass long?

We manage grassland first and foremost for biodiversity to give you a rich and interesting environment, and our precious and disappearing wildlife somewhere to live (and to enhance the value of where you live). Remember that many of our most beautiful insects and birds rely on weeds, their leaves, roots, flowers and seeds. Please see our Grassland Policy at the link at the top of this page.

 Why don’t you take the grass cuttings and prunings away?

Sometimes we do take grass cuttings and other “green arisings” to suitable recycling waste facilities or to our own decomposer areas. It depends on feasibility, whether there are nearby facilities or whether we have on-site composting/ecological decomposer areas that enhance biodiversity. Some grass is mown with a mulch mower but when arisings of larger bulk must be dealt with, if possible we prefer to make discrete compost or habitat piles in out-of-the-way corners. It is surprising how many species rely on decomposer food chains: they are a vital part of nutrient cycling and energy flow through ecosystems.

Why is grass left long around trees?

Although some people feel it is untidy if grass isn’t cut right up to trunks, posts and other features, in fact these little areas of longer vegetation are ecologically very valuable: they add to habitat heterogeneity, provide over-wintering shelter for invertebrates and other small animals (including inside hollow stems), and important pupation zones for, for example, moth caterpillars descending from the foliage of the tree or shrub for their metamorphosis when fully fed. Nature does not like being manicured and does not thrive when groomed into artificial regimentation; we should learn to love these mini-habitats.

Why don’t you “tidy up” trees that have dead wood and ivy on them?

Ivy, mistletoe, standing dead wood, rot, knot holes, hollows, snags, moss, lichens, etc. are seriously important contributors to biodiversity. As well as adding to species-richness and habitat diversity in themselves, they provide exceptional ecosystem benefits in terms of food, shelter and other resources for a host of invertebrates and other animals as well as those that prey on them. Because it is so damaging ecologically, we never “tidy up” trees unless there is a proven and material safety risk or presence of a serious pathogen verified to our satisfaction by a suitably qualified ecological scientist/silviculturist and biologist. When branches or trees do have to be felled, we like to use these as ecological log pile habitats or, safely upended in the ground, as standing dead wood.

What can be done about dog mess?

It is an offence not to clear up after your pet. We will take action against anyone who does not clean up and dispose of their dog’s faeces properly. Simply putting in a bag and leaving it is not enough and hanging it in trees as some do is disgusting as well as a health risk. Please see our Pets Policy at the link at the top of this page.

How can I stop my cat killing birds?

Cats are predators by nature. Keeping them in at night and fitting them with a bell on an elastic collar will help. Please see our Pets Policy at the link at the top of this page.

What can be done about litter and fly-tipping?

These are illegal activities and you should report any instances where you have evidence against a perpetrator to the authorities. We clear litter as much as we can when we make site visits but the answer ultimately lies in better behaviour by the public and an awareness of personal social responsibility.

There has been vandalism on our Open Space, what should I do?

Gather as much information as you can, if possible and without placing yourself at risk with photographs and any evidence of the perpetrators, and report it to the police and/or your local Council without delay, copying us by using the form below.

You’re only doing ground maintenance — why isn’t the Service Charge cheaper?

You may only see someone mowing, strimming, cutting hedges or clearing up every so often but, a bit like the tip of an iceberg, that is only a relatively small part of what we have to do as an ecological estates management firm. It is often not appreciated, quite understandably, just how much else we must account for. In the early days of professional ecology and biodiversity work thirty or more years ago, much of what we must now include as a responsible business keeping up with the times, did not exist or was far cheaper (Health & Safety, Statutory Agencies, Best Practice Guidelines, etc.). There has been a revolution in administrative procedures and a snowstorm of multi-level regulation and law-making since the 1980s.  Also, what we now sometimes call the “blame culture” has necessitated more extensive professional indemnity insurance cover which is expensive.  The combination of these has led to greatly increased costs for almost every professional service in Britain.

Don’t forget our main aims for your open greenspace are not only to enhance the value of your home by improving the environmental and the integrated ecological aspects of your estate, but particularly the protection and promotion of biodiversity. This is in compliance with national and international policies, including climate change and United Nations’ halting the loss of biodiversity to which Britain is a signatory. It takes very many years to acquire adequate ecological field and other skills: personnel must be experienced and possess the relevant knowledge of science and business to perform to the demanding standards of modern ecology-based estates work.

Here is a listed summary of the main reasons for the costs behind what we do that you may not always see.  The list is not exhaustive but when you consider what must be done, the Service Charge is very good value:

  • Staffing which includes sufficiently competent ecological scientists and field operatives doesn’t come cheap and can be hard to find;
  • Training and research needs are exacting and extensive — and must continually be updated;
  • Laws and regulations about wildlife, environment, greenspace and planning have increased dramatically since 1980 when wildlife legislation broadly began;
  • There are over 650 legally protected species in Britain and many more that are “notable”, plus many categories of protected habitats and landscape; some of these are relevant to our urban greenspace and we take our duty of legal and policy compliance seriously;
  • Detailed requirements and agreed guidelines published by the British Standards Institute, statutory authorities, other professional bodies and councils must be carefully followed to ensure there is no criticism of non-compliance or variation of defined standard methods;
  • Health & safety rules are far-reaching and detailed — this means more training, more administrative systems, special clothing and equipment and costly specialised insurance (two people may also sometimes be required to do site work that used to be accomplished by one);
  • Insurance costs, with new taxes placed upon premiums, continually increase;
  • Computers, scientific instruments, office machines and communications equipment are dear and date quickly, but are essential for a responsible business in our sector to function;
  • The road network is seriously inadequate and congested — traffic density and travel time, and resultant delays and costs, have escalated;
  • Like any business, we must allow funding for significant cash flow and financing challenges caused, for example, by slow payment and bad debt; also, as well as wages to pay, there are administrative, rent, rates and overhead costs, record keeping, customer service, public relations, accountancy, budgeting, repairs, estates equipment servicing and replacement, cleaning, general maintenance, vehicles, fuel, scheduling, planning, project management, purchasing, estimating, certification, risk assessments, CPD, corporation and other business taxes, agency & legal fees,

So … that person you may see on the mower is only a very small part of the costs which the Service Charge must meet.

How is the Service Charge spent?

In general terms approximately 60% is for ecological management, monitoring and general maintenance as per the prescriptions in the Management Plan for Biodiversity for the site, 20% is for legal costs, administration, collecting payments/agent fees, etc., and 20% for insurance, repairs and development. Itemised accounts are available annually.

What if I can’t pay the Service Charge?

When you purchased your property, you will have signed the plot transfer which contracted you to pay the service charge. It is tied into your property, so could eventually affect your ability to sell if it remains unpaid. Therefore, if you have any difficulty about making the payments, please advise us immediately. We want to help and we have various options that should assist you. Please telephone our head office (01886 888445) or email residents@bettsestates.com. We also have a formal Procedure for Debt Recovery click here to download the document. This explains things in more detail, but whatever you do, please don’t ignore the problem. Tell us so that we can help you.

Can I pick blackberries?

Yes, and other fruits, etc. But you must please stick to our Foraging Policy which can be found at the web page link at the top of this page.

What about safety or if there is an accident?

Everyone entering any of our open or green space areas does so entirely at their own risk and must be aware of their own safety and the safety of others. The countryside and green spaces are generally safe in Britain, but they are not without risk. Please also see the Policies at the web page link at the top of this page, particularly those for Play Areas, Water/Aquatic Habitats, Pets and Paths/Estate roads. Near the front of our Management Plans for Biodiversity you will find a page about site access and safety. Please read this carefully. We also try to indicate the nearest hospital on this page, but for accidents, remain calm, apply First Aid if you confidently can and know how, and call the emergency services if serious or if in doubt.

The main principles everyone should observe when out in the field are:

  • Respect other people;
  • Consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors;
  • Leave gates and property as you find them and follow paths unless wider access is available;
  • Protect the natural environment;
  • Leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home;
  • Keep dogs and cats (which should always have bells) under effective control;
  • Dog fouling is a crime (Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005) — always clean up and dispose hygienically;
  • Enjoy the outdoors by planning ahead and being prepared;
  • Follow posted advice and local signs.

Always wear suitable footwear and clothing, check your mobile phone’s signal and battery and keep it with you, and make sure someone responsible knows where you are and when you will return. Always supervise children and take particular care near water.

How can I make wildlife records of what I see, and where should I send them?

We are very keen to receive your wildlife records to help us build up as many biodiversity data as we can for our sites. Please use the form below to send in your records which should always include time, date and description, a photograph if possible (and sound recording if appropriate), details of the habitat and any information on numbers (we are interested in abundance as well as individual sightings) and behaviour. If you or your family would like to be involved in wildlife projects generally, or would like specialist information about a species, habitat, or topic such as wildlife gardening or ecosystem services, please tell us.

Why can’t we have more lighting in our open space?

Artificial lighting is a form of environmental pollution and is very disruptive to wildlife because it changes the normal situation and day-lengths to which wild animals and plants have evolved. Bats and nocturnal insects are particularly affected. We have a short explanatory paper about this. Please ask if you would like a copy.

If you still cannot find an answer, please send your question to residents@bettsestates.com  and we will endeavour to reply as soon and as fully as we can.

Most politicians shy away from wildlife conservation because it makes them look trivial.

Simon Barnes, respected journalist, author and nature columnist.

 

What I’m trying to do is save the human race from committing suicide.

The late Gerald Durrell, naturalist and saver of species extraordinaire.

 

We “need to be talking to one another so that people can get a comprehension of the turmoil in which our planet is involved at the moment, which is a biological turmoil above anything else.”

Sir David Attenborough, talking to the Society of Biology.

 

And Attenborough again in Life on Earth II speaking about urban wildlife):

 “to create a world not just for us but for all life on earth”.