Council’s campsite plans for West Stow Country Park lead to wildlife concerns

The site at West Stow Country Park of a proposed campsite.

The site at West Stow Country Park of a proposed campsite. - Credit: Archant

Major concerns over wildlife have been raised in objection to plans for an 180-pitch caravan and camping site at a country park in west Suffolk.

In a bid to boost the appeal and income from West Stow Country Park, St Edmundsbury Borough Council wants to expand the site, which is home to the popular Anglo Saxon village.

Following the submission of a planning application for the caravan and camping site, and associated buildings, several objections have been lodged over the impact on wildlife and rare plants.

The country park sits in a unique landscape, bounded on three sides by the Breckland Special Protection Area (SPA) and Breckland Forest Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Suffolk Wildlife Trust has written to the council to express “a number of significant concerns about this proposal”.

James Meyer, conservation planner at Suffolk Wildlife Trust, wrote: “The SPA is designated as it supports internationally important populations of woodlark and nightjar.

“These bird species are ground nesting and, as recognised in the ecological report accompanying the planning application, are known to be vulnerable to disturbance by people.”

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The SSSI has nationally important populations of waterfowl over the winter, and slow worm, common lizard and grass snake, which are all legally protected species, have been spotted at the location of the proposed campsite.

Mr Meyer said the trust felt the application “fails to demonstrate that the proposed development would not result in an adverse impact on designated sites and protected species” and therefore contradicted planning policy.

Natural England also raised concerns over the proposal, saying further assessments needed to be made.

The organisation also wanted more information on how the council intends to mitigate any damage to rare plants blue fescue ‘Festuca longifolia’ and the Dittander ‘Lepidium latifolium’.

Bernard Tickner, who created Fullers Mill Garden at West Stow, wrote of his concern for the “unusual collection of wildlife” in this unique landscape, saying he feared the noise generated by the caravan site would drive the animals away.

Perennial, the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society, which manages Fullers Mill Garden, wrote to the council: “I trust that it may be possible to reconsider this proposal, so as to preserve the tranquillity of Fullers Mill Garden, an exceptional garden being maintained for the public benefit, and conserve the outstanding environmental qualities of its setting so as to benefit both wildlife and people.”

A council spokesman said: “We have already undertaken an ecology appraisal. As part of the planning process, further work is due to be carried out to address the wildlife concerns that have been raised so far.”