PRESS RELEASE Warrington Local Plan and Western Link: Comments from Warrington Nature Conservation Forum

Warrington Local Plan and Western Link

Warrington Nature Conservation Forum

The 500 members of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) are concerned about the threat that the proposal of 24,000 houses bring to the Warrington’s natural environment and it’s 69 wildlife sites whose patronage includes Chris Packham and Professor David Bellamy.

They want to see a stronger vision of how WBC intends to promote a sustainable natural environment. Policies such as Biodiversity and Geodiversity (QE5) and Environmental and amenity protection (QE6) of the Local Plan Core Strategy need to be more robust considering the changes.

WNCF chair, Geoff Settle said “This is an opportunity for WBC to incorporate a vision that will enhance and improve Warrington’s natural environment and make it a healthier place to live and work in. I have submitted two consultation papers outlining our views.

“We know that environmental protection is under the cosh from the answer given to our Full Council Question last year. Austerity was blamed for the loss of their Natural Environmental Officer post, our removal from the council web site, reduced funding for wildlife partners and planning application with wildlife content were transferred to the Greater Manchester Environment Unit in Tameside.”

The WNCF do not want to have any more Local Wildlife Sites de-designated. This occurred a couple of years ago in Rixton when a developer took WBC to a Planning Inquiry and won. The natural environment is also under threat from vandals destroying hides and platforms most recently at Moore Nature Reserve and Risley Moss respectively. It is also being destroyed by speculative rogue developers who cut down trees and destroy habitat that has taken centuries to evolve so that they can submit their application. Their intent is to claim that the development site has little or no biodiversity value and believing that they have outwitted the enforcement team by destroying the evidence.

Founder member Brian Martin, a renowned ornithologist and Swift expert, would like to see the inclusion of wildlife maps as overlays. He said, “Overlays would help show how the proposed Local Plan will map onto the existing 69 wildlife sites, Mersey Forest Green Infrastructure plan and the Environmental Agency’s Upper Mersey Flood plain. Without these laid on top of the Local Plan it is very hard to make sense of many parts of the plans.”

The WNCF argue that the Local Plan should be an opportunity to protect and develop wildlife networks, as advocated by Hugh Warwick in his latest book “LINESCAPE Remapping and Reconnecting Britain’s Fragmented Wildlife”, rather than create roads and estates that fragments these wildlife routes and encourage the greater use of cars adding to Warrington’s shameful pollution statistics.

Ecologist Rob Smith who is also a member of Risley Moss Action Group (RIMAG) said “Our SSSI sites are home to many birds that appear on the ‘UK’s list of ‘Birds of Conservation Concern(BoCC)’. They are a major reason why Warrington’s Site of Scientific Intertest (SSSI) and Local Wildlife Sites citations exist especially those of Woolston Eyes, Risley Moss and Moore Nature Reserve (MNR).

“The MNR site that is at greatest risk from the Local Plan and the proposed development of the Port of Warrington and the Waterfront. There are at least six BoCC Red listed (the highest conservation value) species of birds found there including the lesser spotted woodpecker and song thrush and at least nine species on the Amber list including the seldom seen but often heard Bitten that makes a booming sound.”

Forum members would like WBC and developers to commit to the development of new wildlife sites, innovative policies and agreements.

A housing developer in Croft has recently removed invasive plants like Himalayan Balsam from their site and enhanced a wildlife pond as part of its development commitment. Brian Martin has advised a Cheshire house builder how to incorporate special bricks for Swifts to nest in the eaves of new houses. This has resulted in re-establishing a colony when they return from Southern Africa to breed. WBC have in the past taken advice from the WNCF to deliver policies to halt to hedge cutting during the bird nesting season and more recently agreed to protect rare and sensitive Wild Bee Orchid sites from being mowed down in Stockton Heath. Two years ago 50 Bee Orchids were seen at the site but this year only 4 flowered after the site had been mowed and churned up, hopefully it will not be too late to save this beautiful specimen that imitates a bee.

These are just four examples of what may seem like small things but the WNCF believe that they do make a big difference to wildlife and if WBC can encourage developers to do more things like this through their policies then Warrington will be a better place to live in.

Dr Paul Speake social media officer said “The WNCF do not want to be quoting from the Joni Mitchel’s song Big Yellow Taxi saying, ‘WBC paved paradise and put up a parking lot!’ The Local Plan should be a vision that makes people want to live, visit and invest their future here whilst at the same time protecting and increasing the biodiversity of the place. 

“We want a healthy sustainable natural environmental strategy that protects the wildlife and in turn the people of Warrington and as Hugh Warwick argues if the wildlife habitat is healthy then so will the associated population’s health and wellbeing.

“You can read the full transcripts of the two documents we have submitted as part of the Local Plan and Western Link consultation on our new web site and Facebook page.”

Geoff Settle

Chair Nature Conservation Forum