Fears for future of wildlife habitat

By David GreenA BATTLE is about to start over the future of land that was previously earmarked for development and is next to high-value wildlife habitat.

By David Green

A BATTLE is about to start over the future of land that was previously earmarked for development and is next to high-value wildlife habitat.

The 25-acre area, on the eastern outskirts of Ipswich, borders a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest - home of the silver-studded blue butterfly - and a County Wildlife Site.

But under current planning guidance issued by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, aimed at maximising the use of development sites, it could be used to build up to 500 new homes.

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Two residents' associations have declared their opposition to the development of the land and want the whole area protected for conservation.

The land - comprising the grounds of large detached homes in Purdis Farm Lane - was given planning permission for up to 96 homes in the late 1980s, which has now lapsed, but builders are queuing up to exploit its potential.

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Parts of the site have already been acquired by developers and negotiations with occupants of other existing homes are under way.

Ipswich Golf Club, a neighbouring landowner, is worried about the proximity of any future development, while Suffolk Wildlife Trust is ready to assess the possible impact on the adjoining habitat.

The Purdis Farm Lane Area Residents' Association and the Bucklesham Road Action Group have jointly called a meeting of their members for March 12 to discuss the future of the land.

Both organisations believe it is unsuitable for development and want the whole locality declared a Conservation Area.

They claimed a large influx of new residents will lead to increased recreational use of the adjacent wildlife habitat and, ultimately, damage.

Graham Balfe, action group secretary, said: "Planning officers have made clear that this land lies within the town limits and that they would wish to see high-density housing and flats on the land.

"Development in this area is currently very low density at a place where the town merges with the countryside. Building high-density homes would be highly damaging."

Mr Balfe said if the residents' associations did not get a fair hearing during the forthcoming review of the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan, they would take their case to the ombudsman.

Neill Ellice, chairman of the Purdis Farm Lane group, said the area was special and comprised a "very important interface" between town and country.

"There is little doubt that rare species exist in the proposed development site, including the noctule bat, and many of the trees are covered by a preservation order," he added.

Mr Ellice said his group wanted a wildlife study and a review of the existing tree preservation order to be carried out before any planning policy decisions were taken.

Gordon Terry, planning consultant for Ipswich Golf Club, said it wanted a buffer zone created to ensure that stray golf balls did not end up in any new housing development.

"The club is also very proud of its conservation record and would not like to see the habitat it manages come under increased pressure," he added.

Jean Coleman, spokeswoman for Suffolk Coastal District Council, said the number of dwellings permissible for the land had not yet been identified.

"However, the council has received a directive from central government which states that councils are expected to achieve a density of 30 to 50 dwellings per hectare (2.5 acres) unless there would be serious environmental implications," she added.


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