10 signatures reached
To: UK Government
Stop developers from destroying precious nightingale habitat
Urgently amend The Countryside and Wildlife Act 1981 in order to strengthen protection of diminishing wildlife habitats and better protect biodiversity.
Why is this important?
The housing crisis has hit nightingales hard.
A planned development near Suffolk coast demonstrates why The Countryside and Wildlife Act 1981 must be amended to protect endangered precious habitats throughout the UK.
We call for the government to enact laws that will genuinely hold Developers and Local Planning Authorities to account when they plan to destroy habitats that need protection.
In April 2019 The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government stated:
"On 8 April, we wrote to developers to remind them of their legal obligation to consider the impact of any project on local wildlife and, where necessary, to take precautionary action to protect their habitats. Developments should enhance natural environments, not destroy them. It is vital that developers take these words on board and play their full role to make sure we can deliver new communities in an environmentally sustainable way.
Any development project must consider the impact on local wildlife and take precautionary action to protect habitat…. wildlife habitat must be left in a measurably better state than it was before any development."
This statement is probably made with good intentions, but there is still insufficient accountability in law.
A recent planning application passed conditionally by the former Waveney District Council (now East Suffolk Council) makes an excellent case study as to how not to achieve the outcomes of the ministry statement above.
The case involves a local private school, Saint Felix, Southwold, applying for planning permission to build 69 houses on their playing fields. This is the third development undertaken by the school in the last 20 years!
The site involved is within the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. AONBs apparently receive the greatest level of protection in the National Planning Policy Framework. That is unless the Local Planning authority choose otherwise.
The site is in proximity to a number of Special Protection Areas (SPAs). The planning applicants (Saint Felix School) are therefore required to construct a
Mitigation Strategy for the avoidance of recreational pressure on these sensitive and important sites.
In order to proceed with their planning application Saint Felix School commissioned consultants (Norfolk Wildlife Services) to devise such a strategy. This effectively creates a new circular walk around the development site. It involves cutting back large swathes of gorse and heathland, sanitising woodland and scrub and erecting signage to try to prevent the new residents from using the comprehensive network of public footpaths that abound in the area. What is not made clear in the strategy document is that the new circular footpaths are almost wholly within a designated County Wildlife Site. A major part of the clearance involves sanitising and fencing an area of broadleaf woodland and scrub that for the past few years has been the site of nesting nightingales. There are also a plethora of other flora and fauna, including a diverse variety of other bird species, reptiles including slowworms, adders, grass snakes and lizards, a variety of mammals including deer and stoats and many invertebrates.
As well as being set within the Saint Felix School Grounds County Wildlife Site the proposed mitigation strategy closely borders several other County Wildlife Sites.
The outcome of Natural England objecting to the scheme in order to protect nationally designated special protection areas and several SSSIs in proximity to the site has been the development of a strategy that destroys habitats that at present are biodiverse, perhaps most notably used by nesting nightingales. Natural England have since stated that they have no concerns regarding increased recreational pressure to the SPAs provided the developing mitigation strategy is implemented.
How does this square with the requirement for developers to leave areas providing net gains for biodiversity and in a measurably better state than it was before any development? The current system is toothless and displays an errant disregard for precious habitats that are under increasing threat. Advice and guidance do not work. Legislation is essential if we are to leave any natural environments for future generations.
Reydon Action Group for the Environment (RAGE) are campaigning against the St Felix School planning application. More information about RAGE may be found on our Facebook.
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