Warrington Nature Conservation Forum – Draft Local Plan – Press Release June 2019

Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) whose members include ecologists and wildlife specialists are urging people to ask themselves

“Is wildlife under threat on your doorstep by the proposals in the draft local plan?” 

WNCF enjoying Wigg Island

The WNCF was established in 1992 as part of Agenda 21 which was itself a spin off from United Nations Rio Summit on the Environment, the forum’s aims are to involve local people in decision making on matters affecting the natural environment and enable the management of wildlife habit threats in the Borough of Warrington and provide better access to nature alongside our Wildlife partners.

Ecologist and WNCF media officer, Dr Paul Speake said “Hardly a week goes by without a reference in the media to threats on wildlife and climate change, for example

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/

Les Jones, ornithologist welcomes the plans acknowledgement of the Borough’s natural assets that include 55 local wildlife sites, 5 local nature reserves, 4 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and 3 Special Areas of Conservations (SACs). He said “Warrington has so much more that also needs protecting especially on very small sites such as the rare orchids (Bee and Northern Marsh) from being mowed down in Stockton Heath and Birchwood Way verges. Other wildlife species are sprayed with herbicides.”

A sign WBC should invest in?

“Our view is that a plan should begin with an assessment of the natural environment. What we see is a plan driven by exaggerated Central Government housing targets and a lottery for land grab by developers. Sacrificing the Green Belt is not an option that we support.”

Since 2014 the town has been without a natural environmental officer, Brian Martin renowned ornithologist said “We are renewing our call for WBC to re-instate the role of a natural environmental officer which was killed off five years ago because of austerity. This is a very significant role which has been contracted out to Greater Manchester Ecology Unit based in Tameside.

“Warrington needs to re-instate the role in-house that is so important because of the sheer amount of planning applications due to be processed. There have been too many examples of developers destroying creature’s habitat like badger sets, small thickets or ponds.

Paul Speake said “People should contact us (via our web site wncf.co.uk or Facebook) or the Cheshire Wildlife Police Officer via 101 if they suspect anyone causing damage to local habitat.

“A shopkeeper alerted Geoff to a tree chainsaw massacre taking place on the Latchford railway embankment prior to a planning application being made for flats. He was able to contact the WBC Tree Officer to investigate and he immediately served tree preservation orders on the remainder. Time is of the essence in the cases some developers are either ignorant or don’t care. There is no excuse for ignorance in such matters”

The Mersey Forest based at Risley Moss have a plan for Warrington that is of great importance to the borough which is not referenced in the plan. It contains a Tree Strategy Planting Map with 21 policies and opportunities for the borough. As a former steering group member for nine years Geoff is very aware of the leading role that the MF play in the UK Community Forest network and their numerous awards for conservation excellence.

He said “The council has a great partner in the Mersey Forest who can understand the greater importance of trees to capture carbon and pollution to help mitigate climate change. This would reduce impact of sound alongside busy roads and motorways. In addition, tree roots bind earth and help fight against soil erosion and flooding whilst their canopies provide a wildlife corridor for bats, insects, birds etc. and shade.

The WNCF welcomes the recognition in the plan that it’s environmental assets, including its sites of international, national and local importance for biodiversity must continue to be protected and opportunities taken to enhance their function and value, including improving linkages between them, through a comprehensive Green Infrastructure network.

Geoff said “As a geographer and a parish path warden, I hope there will be an opportunity to establish new footpaths even though WBC is without a rights of way officer. From a wildlife point of view, I would like to see the development of Linescapes or green footpaths for wildlife as advocated by Hugh Warwick.

“He told me about his lifetime research of hedgehogs and their movements. He argued that the principles are applicable to other species to get to places to feed or breed. They should be protected, and any obstacles removed or mitigated.”

The WNCF are very concerned about loss of parts of Moore Nature Reserve.Brian Martin said “The well-established evidence of the health benefits of exposure to wild places and wildlife which will be no longer available to the hundreds of people who regularly visit Moore Reserve if it is lost.

“Many of them tell me how important the Reserve is to them as a refuge from all the stresses of everyday life.  I see no evidence in the Plan that such important issues have even been considered.

“The wet woodland habitat found here is increasingly rare and is home to several Red List species such as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Willow Tit as well as the bittern with its deep boom. Recreating wet woodland would not be easy and inevitably take a long time. Planners seem to take the simplistic and uninformed view that any loss could easily be compensated: it can’t.”

Ecologist and author (on birds of Risley Moss) Rob Smith a member of the RSPB said “When new members receive their information pack they are immediately struck by the strap line ‘GIVE NATURE A HOME’ this is the message that we  believe should also be at the heart of the Local Plan.” Once the natural environment is concreted, bricked or tarmacked over they will be lost forever.”

The closing date for comments about the local plan is June 17th click on https://www.warrington.gov.uk/yourlocalplan for more details.”

Geoff Settle (Chair WNCF).

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