Which minority rules on Blacka Moor?

For various reasons I have not been able to give a prompter reply to the letter "Minority must not rule on Blacka Moor" but I feel that it should not go unanswered.

Your anonymous correspondent did not present a balanced picture of the situation. He/she suggested that the management of Blacka Moor is a choice between conservation grazing or doing nothing at all and that a small minority prefer the latter and are thus frustrating the aims of the great majority.

Since taking over the management of Blacka Moor in 2001, Sheffield Wildlife Trust always intended to use grazing in an attempt to prevent the spread of trees and bracken and brushed aside the genuine concerns of people who regularly attended advisory group meetings.

During 2006 SWT arranged for a facilitation process, ostensibly to seek a compromise and agreement about a management plan. This process involved six meetings, each one at least three hours long, usually attended by 20 to 30 people.

What emerged was that a majority of attendees did not agree with the introduction of cattle and preferred instead the employment of an on-site worker, with a tightly focused programme of work, eg maintenance of paths and bridleways and the clearance of vegetation in specific locations such as viewpoints, as opposed to relying on the haphazard wanderings of cattle.

SWT dismissed that idea as too costly, saying that prospective donors would only support a grazing regime because it is cheaper, although the figures used disregarded the capital investment for walls, fences and gates necessitated by the introduction of cattle.

Your correspondent deplored the spread of bracken and I would agree that this is a matter of concern but studies undertaken by more than one university show very clearly cattle will have little or no effect on bracken. They don't eat it, unless they are starving, and they should not be allowed to because it is carcinogenic and would result in a slow, painful death.

The impact on the spread of the trees is problematical and no-one knows just how many cattle are needed and how long it will be before there is any discernible effect.

What is usually brushed aside in discussions with conservationists is that Blacka Moor is a charitable trust whereby the land was bought for the people of Sheffield by the Graves Trust for "public walks and pleasure grounds" and entrusted to the city council to manage it for that purpose.

Even when the governing document was eventually amended by the Charity Commission in 2005 to permit use of the property for conservation, it was on condition that that did not conflict with the original intentions.

SWT have erected signs calling the site a "nature reserve", a title which has no legal standing, but suggestions that the signs should also acknowledge the generosity of the Graves Trust are met with a lukewarm "We'll think about it," but nothing has happened so far.

There are many people who have told me that the presence of cattle deters them from going to Blacka Moor and so they have lost an amenity they previously enjoyed. I know that since the cattle were introduced horse riders have experienced problems with the cattle and the cows have churned up many of the paths, rendering them very difficult to use.

On top of that dog walkers are presented with concerns about possible interaction between their dogs and the cattle. All this surely conflicts with the recreational use of the area.

The anonymous writer of the letter complains of a small minority dictating to the rest but dismisses a petition signed by 761 people and implies that non-attendance at meetings should deny them the right to have any say.

There are, no doubt, many reasons why people are unable or unwilling to go to meetings but as citizens of Sheffield they have the right for their wishes to be taken into account. If they all turned up, where would the meeting be held?

Minority rule? Which minority?