MARK GLOVER: Council need to take action to protect and enhance our local biodiversity.

Netherfield_Lagoons
Netherfield Lagoons, Sign

Gedling Borough Council’s planning committee recently gave the go ahead for 199 houses to be built at the Teal Close site in Netherfield. The decision was welcomed by the leader of the Council who said: “I’m really pleased; I think there are great opportunities there.”

At the planning meeting, however, some members expressed their disappointment that only 10 of the 199 houses were to be “affordable” while others referred to the impact the development might have on the Netherfield Lagoons – a designated Local Nature Reserve (LNR) next to the Teal Close site.

The lack of affordable homes to be built by developer Persimmon should be seen in the light of the news that the company’s boss, Jeff Fairburn, had become one of the country’s richest executives and is on course to collect a bonus of nearly £100 million – almost the same amount that the whole Teal Close development is worth.

Outline planning permission had already been granted for the development which, in total, will see up to 830 dwellings, employment uses, a community hub, primary school, hotel, care home, playing pitches, public open space, allotments and an ‘ecology park’ on a site covering approximately 63 hectares, most of which is in designated Flood Zones where there are high risk or medium/low risks of flooding.

The site is also situated close to a sewage works and an animal bi-products rendering plant.

In addition to the issues of potential flooding, potential smells and lack of affordable housing, there is an issue of the impact of such developments on the future integrity and biodiversity of the LNR and to the area in general.

A recent (2016) report by more than fifty nature conservation organisations has revealed that more than one in 10 of UK wildlife species are now threatened with extinction and the numbers of the nation’s most endangered creatures have plummeted by two-thirds since 1970. The abundance of all wildlife has also fallen, with one in six animals, birds, fish and plants having been lost.

The UK is now “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world”, with most of the country having gone past the threshold at which “ecosystems may no longer reliably meet society’s needs”.

This crisis emphasises why areas such as the Netherfield lagoons LNR are of such, local and now national importance and the need for bodies such as Gedling Borough Council to take action to protect and enhance local biodiversity.

Netherfield-Lagoons
PICTURED: Netherfield Lagoons

Gedling seems to have a poor record in this regard. Some years ago the authority signed up to a pioneering scheme – Biodiversity Offsetting – designed to be used by planning authorities and developers to fully compensate for biodiversity impacts associated with building projects. Yet I can’t find a single example of where this has been applied in Gedling.

The UK is now “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world”, with most of the country having gone past the threshold at which “ecosystems may no longer reliably meet society’s needs”.

The building of more than 800 houses within a short distance of the nature reserve will have an impact.  The additional number of visitors, dog walkers, etc. will increase wear and tear, disturbance and litter. It is a pity, therefore, that the outline planning decision by Gedling Borough Council rejected this impact and dismissed any compensation, despite comments from Nottinghamshire County Council: ‘ The maintenance of the Lagoons falls to the Gedling Conservation Trust, which is a small charity, and it seems unreasonable to expect them to have to bear the financial burden of dealing with increased visitor pressure caused by the development.’

And Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust: ‘…….the NWT support the comments made by the County Council, which indicates that monies should be made available to GCT towards the existing infrastructure of Netherfield Lagoons.’

GBC’s rejection of this advice was effectively ratified at the recent planning meeting. It is worth pointing out that the Gedling Conservation Trust receives no state or Local Government aid and will have to bear the inevitable increase in maintenance costs.

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At least as concerning are the provisions set out in the original planning decision which will determine the future of the development’s open spaces and the designated ‘ecology park’

Persimmon has to form an ‘Ecology Committee’ to discuss the plan and management of the ‘Ecology Park’, relying heavily on input from GBC.

A private company with a board of directors – some to be recruited from future householders – is to be established to manage the Open Spaces, which includes the ‘Ecology Park’. Future maintenance and management would be funded by an ‘Open Space Maintenance Contribution’ levied from future householders.

This raises some serious questions: What happens if the limited company fails? Who will be the shareholders? What guarantees will there be to maintain the purposes of the ‘Ecology Park’?

Persimmon have failed to provide me with any examples of where this type of arrangement is working.

It is a great pity that the ‘Ecology Park’ does not include the section of the Ouse Dyke that runs along its side as this could be an enhancement to the site. During the summer months the dyke is choked with Himalayan balsam and it is likely that this will find its way onto the Ecology Park.

Opportunities to enhance the Netherfield Lagoons reserve have been missed. The Gedling Conservation Trust owns and manages the nature reserve but does not own any routes to access the site. There is nowhere where it can direct visitors to access the reserve due to the lack of parking available.

The Teal Close development provided a fantastic opportunity to help remedy this problem and enhance the development by the synergy of having a first class nature reserve next door. Suggestions were made from the outset about the inclusion of some parking spaces, the provision of a simple visitors centre or shelter with information boards, the ownership and maintenance of the section of the Ouse Dyke etc. but, sadly, none were taken up.

Gedling’s planning committee missed opportunities to improve the development, making it more sustainable. At the meeting no-one raised issues of energy conservation or production (why, for instance, are these new houses not being built with solar panels?). The issues of potential future flooding, the impacts of building on contaminated land and the smells residents will face were glossed over.

This new planning decision came at a time when news was coming through of serious floods in Lancaster which caused havoc including power cuts and the need for more than 70 people to be rescued. Let’s hope that the future residents lives at Teal Close aren’t blighted or ruined by these threats but you can be pretty sure that, should this happen, I’m sure no-one from the Council will be around to hold up their hands and say “sorry”.

4 Comments

  1. totally agree with you Mark – I have seen the gedling borough council planning team in action- useless.. they should be fed to the starving polar bears- would be of some use then… google on the bear sad story .
    The nature reserve should be compensated on a planning / section 106 monies agreement .. but this council and housing firm probably do not even know what a nature reserve is – or its value and sensitivity !!! shame on them all

  2. Very interesting example that shows how little our natural world is cared about by local authorities. I live in Stoke Bardolph village and dread a future with another 850 households accessing the area.
    The other major concern is how close the planning at Teal Close and the proposed lagoons are going to be to an old anthrax pit where diseased cattle were buried in approximate 1952/53. It takes 100 years for the Antrax spores to die. If humans catch Anthrax there is a 75 % fatality rate.
    The village have put this concerns to planning, no one has investigated our concerns.

    • Thanks so much for your comments. This is not the first time I have received information about animal burial. Do you have any more details or more precise dates?

  3. Totally agree, Mark. GBC would tarmac the whole borough if they could and fill it with supermarkets and cinemas if they could. Not a second thought for wildlife and ecology.

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