New nature reserve at Leiston will be ‘great gain’ for area’s wildlife

Work on a new 165-acre nature reserve on the east coast will start this spring after community leaders yesterday granted planning permission.

Approving the bid, planners agreed the reserve would be a great gain for wildlife.

Objectors questioned whether the planning application by EDF Energy was premature – and wanted it deferred to be considered alongside the full plans for Sizewell C.

This is because the creation of the habitat at Aldhurst Farm, Lovers Lane, Leiston, will help mitigate for part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to be lost if the new nuclear reactor is built.

However, planning chiefs said they were satisfied that the reserve could be considered as a standalone application, and the secretary of state would later decide what role it played in the package of mitigation measures.

The scheme will include 14 acres of wetland habitat and a “heathland mosaic”, including grassland, heathland, scrub and scattered trees.

Leiston ward councillor Tony Cooper said: “People in Leiston are looking forward to this happening and I fully support it, as does the town council.

“This will be an asset for the community which people can enjoy for years to come.”

Most Read

Leiston councillor Trevor Hawkins said he was impressed with the preparatory work carried out and felt confident there was “a sound scientific basis” for the project.

He said: “This is going to improve the natural habitat. The land will be converted back to the state it was in pre-agricultural times.”

Councillor Susan Harvey told Suffolk Coastal’s north area development management sub committee that the scheme appeared very well thought out and would be a big gain for wildlife.

She said: “We are taking fields for housing in other areas and here we will be doing something for wildlife.”

Officers said the aim was to replicate Suffolk Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) habitats, to benefit and encourage a variety of wildlife to the site including vascular plants, invertebrates, water voles, otters, eels, amphibians, reptiles and breeding and wintering birds.

Tom Langton, of Suffolk Coastal Friends of the Earth, was sceptical though – and claimed that not carrying out a full environmental impact assessment of the new site’s potential impact on nearby SSSI areas was “corner cutting”. He claimed the wetland would have to be continually topped up from a borehole.

However, Dr Steve Mannings, head of environmental planning for Sizewell C, said no borehole extraction would be used as the land will be lowered below the water table and so fed naturally.