Councils urged to consider wildlife at sites earmarked for development
Wildlife enthusiasts are urging town and parish councillors to carry out “thorough local research” before backing the development of land that could support rare or endangered species.
They say building work at a former quarry site in Sudbury, which led to a 150-year-old bridge being damaged and cracked, has also displaced wildlife such as hedgehogs - a Biodiversity Action Plan species identified as being among the most threatened in the UK.
It has since emerged that planning permission for a house at the Bridge Terrace site has not even gone through yet. Local conservationists have criticised Sudbury town councillors for giving their blessing to the development without considering the wildlife or making a site visit.
Local conservationists have criticised Sudbury town councillors for giving their blessing to the development without considering the wildlife.
Babergh planning officer John Davies confirmed that no environmental assessment was carried out at Bridge Terrace because it is not a “conservation area”. However he admitted it could have been a habitat for protected species.
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Sudbury tree warden Jill Fisher said: “There were definitely hedgehogs and grass snakes in the area but there were no surveys to see what impact this building work would have on wildlife.
“Town councillors might not have a final say as to whether planning permission is granted but we need to be able to rely on them to put forward an informed opinion. As local people, they should know the area and at least make an effort to visit development sites before submitting a view.”
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Conservation volunteer George Millins echoed Mrs Fisher’s view. He said: “The Natural Environmental and Rural Communities Act of 2006 placed responsibility on all authorities to preserve and protect the natural environment as far as possible. But I have acted as site ecologist on a number of major developments over the past decade and have found the protection and enforcement of wildlife law has steadily declined. Once these sites are destroyed, the habitat is lost forever.”
In response, town councillor John Sayers is now pushing for the town council to inform the district authority if it feels a proposed development site is of significant value to wildlife.