Conservation Management

Conservation management is often challenging. Land management is usually about achieving a wide range of outcomes, often with limited resources. We have worked on a range of complex sites where we have identified priorities for management and worked with stakeholders to set out how they might best be achieved.

Management plans

Management plans

Management plans set out conservation and other land and habitat management measures over a set time period.



Management planning on registered common land is a special case for which we have a wealth of experience.

Management plans

Management plans

Almost all sites important for wildlife need some form of management. This might take the form of continuing traditional management such as hay cutting on grassland or grazing heathland, or it might involve restoring neglected habitat such as reedbed or ditch systems, or managing for sensitive features such as veteran trees or saline lagoons.

Species-specific management plans

Specific management for species might also be needed to provide suitable conditions for, for example, breeding waders on wet grassland, dragonflies in heathland ponds, grasshoppers and crickets on dry grassland, or sand lizards on sandy banks on heathland. Many sites also have important cultural, archaeological and landscape features.

Open spaces

In addition to management for wildlife, many sites also function as open space for walkers, dog walkers, horse riders and others enjoying the scenery and wildlife.

Comprehensive planning

To manage a site to cater for all these interests as well as necessary works such as management of firebreaks and access routes, maximization of grant income and consideration of the needs of adjoining landowners and farming tenants, requires a comprehensive and forward looking plan.

Management plans that work

Footprint have developed a format for the production of management plans which is relatively short, easy to understand and provides a template for consultations both with specialist interests and the general public. This has been used successfully to consult on, and reach a consensus on, the management of numerous sites as well as forming a basis for subsequent grant applications. We have produced management plans for a wide range of clients and circumstances including:

  • White, J. and Underhill-Day, J. - 2010 - Canford Heath Nature Reserve Management Plan 2010-
    A plan for the management of Canford Heath for Poole Borough Council
    This suburban heath is part of the Dorset heaths SPA/SAC, a SSSI and a very heavily used public access site with a range of urban problems. We undertook a successful public consultation on the plan.
  • Underhill-Day J. and King M. - 2015 - Blackheath Management Plan
    A plan for Blackheath Common for Waverley District Council on a very rural heath
    Here the residents take a keen interest in the heath which surrounds their village and which is heavily used for recreation, air and exercise. The public consultation successfully reached consensus on the plan proposals.

  • A management plan for Lundy Island for the Landmark Trust
    Lundy Island is owned by the National Trust and leased to Landmark. It is a SSSI, has a high and biodiverse wildlife interest, is a very important cultural and archaeological site and is heavily visited by the public. The island contains heathland and grassland, cliff seabird colonies, a commercial farm and a range of facilities. There were important issues of sustainability and long term viability, with strong interest from Natural England and a long history of inputs by members of the Lundy Society. Footprint facilitated a consensus and produced the plan for this important and complex site.

  • Another island plan for Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour
    Here the plan needed to cover the management of heathland, woodland, a large saline lagoon, reedbeds and wetlands and soft cliffs and beaches, part of the Dorset Heaths SAC/SPA and Poole Harbour SPA/SSSI, and within the AONB and heritage coast. The island is managed by the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust, has sensitive and protected species and is heavily visited by the public.
  • Underhill-Day and King M. - 2015 - Fingle Woods conservation plan - information to in
    A conservation plan for the 334ha area of Fingle Woods in Devon for the Woodland trust and National Trust
    As part of a National Lottery bid Footprint prepared this plan which included a public consultation. The plan was essentially concerned with the re-instatement of native broad-leaved woodland from conifer plantation.

We have also prepared management plans for soft sea cliffs in Poole Harbour, a SSSI woodland common in Oxfordshire, woodland and grassland access land in Surrey, agricultural access land in Sussex and wet grassland on three farmed areas in Dorset.



There are nearly 8,700 commons in England and Wales, spread across every county and covering well over half a million hectares. Of these, about 5,000 commons contain, or are part of, SSSIs. Half of the commons in Wales and 81% in England form part of the protected landscapes of AONBs and National Parks, and in England commons constitute nearly 40% of all open access land. Although some of the largest commons are in the uplands, 70% of all commons (6,200 sites) are in the lowlands. Commons are of national importance with some 88% by area designated for their wildlife, archaeology, cultural history and landscapes.

The long history of the common

The origins of commons go back to Domesday and beyond, and down the centuries they have served as an important agricultural and domestic resource for local communities who used them for grazing livestock, collecting fuel and timber, fishing and extracting sand and clay. In some areas, particularly the uplands, commons still have an important role in agricultural communities.

Commons for wildlife and people

However, many other commons have lost these economic and cultural links and are now more valued as wildlife sites and by their local communities as amenity land for air and exercise. This can result in conflicts between the maintenance of traditional management to retain biodiversity and their predominant use as public open spaces. Resolving these issues is a complex task and requires expertise in:

  • Habitat management
  • Public access
  • Facilitating public consultations and discussion
  • The complex legislation connected with commons
  • Legislation relating to wildlife conservation and access


Our experience in the management of commons

Footprint Ecology can offer all these skills, and has advised on management and consultations on over 40 commons across 10 counties in England. Examples of our work on commons include:

  • Commons Factsheets
    Stimulating action on local commons
    A series of nearly 20 attractively designed factsheets providing information on all aspects of managing commons for local people and communities interested in managing their common, commissioned by Natural England.
  • Underhill-Day - The Pebblebeds Heaths - An options appraisal
    Fencing on the 1,400ha Pebblebed heathland commons
    Advising, carrying out public consultations and preparing an application for fencing to facilitate grazing management of the 1,400ha Pebblebed heathland commons, resulting in a successful outcome on multiple commons under five different ownerships.

  • Hense Moor in Devon
    Carrying out a similar process for the committee representing the commoners who also own the common at Hense Moor in Devon.
  • White - 2010 - Totternhoe Knolls Common, Central Bedfordshire
    Commons in the Chilterns
    Preparing short management plans for 14 commons in the Chilterns for the Chilterns Conservation Board.
  • Underhill-Day, J - 2006 - Chailey Commons LNR First report and recommendatio
    Commons in East Sussex
    Carrying out extensive consultations, giving advice and preparing an application for fencing on behalf of the County Council on a group of commons in East Sussex and giving evidence at the subsequent public inquiry which approved the scheme.

  • Visitor issues on various commons
    Advising on visitor patterns and issues on a number of important commons including Cannock Chase, The Sandlings, the Pebblebeds and Frensham Common.

  • Advising on management of heathland, grassland and woodland commons
    Across a range of sites.


Comment from the chairman of a local Friends Group on our management plan for their common:

  • I must thank you for such a fine and thoughtful report which, I believe, will prove very useful to us.

Comment from a senior ranger on completion of a management plan:

  • I am very pleased with your work and certainly would not have been able to complete this without you.

Comment from the site manager on completion of a management plan:

  • It has been a real pleasure working with you and I feel that the site’s conservation strategy has reached a new level and set firm guidance for the foreseeable future.

Contact us to discuss your project

We’re always ready to talk about your requirements, so please do get in touch today

Tel: +44 (0)1929 552444