Development rings death knell for sanctity of wild havens

Tuesday 14th January 2014

The Sanctuary and the velodrome cpt Derbyshire Wildlife TrustThe Sanctuary and the velodrome cpt Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

A planning application will set a dangerous national precedent as the local authority aims to build a cycle race track on land it previously designated a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and Local Wildlife Site.

Loss of nature reserves like The Sanctuary - death by a thousand cuts, if you like - has to stop if we are to have any chance of halting, and reversing, the decline in our nation’s wildlife

Derby City Council could become the first local authority to choose to build on a significant part of its own LNR without any mitigation, against its own policies and national planning policy guidance.

Local Nature Reserves are designated sites which are important for wildlife - and make a valuable contribution to England's natural heritage - and public enjoyment.

The Sanctuary, Derby’s only bird reserve, is located next to Derby County’s football stadium at Pride Park (recently renamed the iPro Stadium) and adjacent to a new multi-million pound indoor velodrome.  Plans include a pay-to-race track and mountain bike skills area.

The 12 hectare site is the only LNR in Derby designated for its birds and key for people’s access to wildlife.  One third comprises a grassed-over toxic waste mound, whose construction in 2003 destroyed two thirds of a special grassland habitat which The Sanctuary was subsequently created to protect.

The Sanctuary’s open mosaic of grassland habitat is used by ground-nesting and migrant birds.  Species such as skylark, meadow pipit, wheatear, snipe, stonechat, ring ouzel and lapwing have either nested or rested on migration here.  

The rare Dartford warbler (pictured) has also been recorded on the site.

Dartford warbler cpt Amy Lewis

Last year The Wildlife Trusts responded to 6,600 planning applications with 3,000 being improved for wildlife as a result of our input.  

Stephen Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ Director for England, said:

“This will be a nationally significant case.  It highlights the extreme pressure being put on our remaining habitats everywhere.  The Wildlife Trusts are trying to save fantastic wild places across the UK such as Aylestone Meadows* (see notes to editors) in Leicester.  

"Last year’s national report on the State of Nature in the UK highlighted the 60% declines in our wildlife and local authorities have responsibilities to conserve and enhance nature.  Loss of nature reserves like The Sanctuary - death by a thousand cuts, if you like, has to stop if we are to have any chance of halting, and reversing, the decline in our nation’s wildlife.”

A coalition of 15 Derbyshire wildlife groups is urging people to oppose the planning application which offers no suitable mitigation for the damage caused to the LNR. The coalition includes Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Derbyshire Ornithological Society, the local RSPB group and Derby Natural History Society.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Tim Birch, Conservation Manager at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said:

“Derby City Council risks national disrepute if it goes ahead with its plans.  This would be the first case in the country where a Local Authority, having given one of its own wildlife sites Local Nature Reserve status, then goes on to destroy a significant part of it without mitigation.  We fear LNRs in other regions could then also be seen as fair game for all sorts of inappropriate development.”

An independent ecological assessment carried out for Derby City Council in 2013 concluded that The Sanctuary LNR is of county-level importance and ‘that the proposed development will have an adverse ecological impact on the LNR at ‘County’ Level.’

The Council maintains its plans will only destroy 18% of the Local Nature Reserve. The coalition argues that 40-50% of the site’s key bird habitats will be lost or irrevocably disturbed by the high level of proposed use both by day and also after dark using floodlighting.

Derbyshire Ornithological Society chairman, Bryan Barnacle, said:

“We believe that councillors, the media and indeed cyclists have been misled by the council into thinking that the part of The Sanctuary allocated for the racing circuit is just a bit of unimportant waste ground.  In fact it’s an integral and key element of this 12 hectare reserve, important for many breeding and migrating bird species.  Suggesting they only need avoid the most sensitive part of the key reserve where legally protected little ringed plovers breed is to completely miss the point.  This is a precious jewel among the brick, concrete and tarmac of Pride Park; losing any of it will be a significant loss for the city’s biodiversity.”

The coalition is urging all those who care about the conservation of wildlife and the protection of Local Nature Reserves to contact Derby City Council’s planning department by 16 January to lodge an objection.

Tim Birch added:  “We regret finding ourselves in conflict with the ambitions of cycle groups, but are confident that the majority will start to understand the implications for wildlife and Derby residents’ access to nature, should this go ahead.”

Contact: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188 or thesanctuarylnr@gmail.com

More information:

The Sanctuary

The bird reserve, opened ten years ago by Margaret Beckett MP then the Secretary of State for the Environment, has offered Sanctuary to over 90 different species of bird.  It includes important open mosaic grasslands and wet rushy habitat, a small lake, dragonfly pools and special gravelled areas for ground nesting birds to use.  The area currently under threat is known as ‘Skylark grassland’ for obvious reasons, but has even played host to the rare Dartford Warbler.

Despite assuring Mrs Beckett in 2011 that The Sanctuary would be safe from development, Derby Council now wants to add the cycle track to a £27m multi-sport arena it has constructed right next to the bird reserve.  

For tables of birds recorded see Section 3, and for conclusions see section 5 of Derby Council’s Environmental Impact Assessment.

The area currently under threat is known as ‘Skylark grassland’ for obvious reasons, but has even played host to the rare Dartford Warbler

The City Council formally declared The Sanctuary a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in 2006.  Establishment of The Sanctuary attracted the equivalent of around £200,000 in sponsorship, grants and other donations.  It has already won two environmental awards, and its Management Plan for 2011-2021 (commissioned by Derby City Council) highlights that "it is the bird assemblage, particularly the group of ground-nesting species that makes this site unique within the city."

Anyone wanting to object to the proposals on the grounds that it goes against local and national policies on protection of biodiversity should contact DevelopmentControl@derby.gov.uk.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSanctuaryDerby

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SanctuaryLNR

The coalition consists of Carsington Bird Club; Darley & Nutwood LNR Management Group; Derby Natural History Society; Derby RSPB Local Group Members Derby Tree Warden Network; Derbyshire Amphibian and Reptile Group; Derbyshire Bat Group; Derbyshire Mammal Group; Derbyshire Ornithological Society; Derbyshire Wildlife Trust; Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire Entomological Society; East Midlands Region RSPB; Friends of Sinfin Moor Park LNR; Pleasley Pit Nature Study Group; Wessington Green LNR Management Group.

Aylestone Meadows, Leicester

A survey in 2012 determined it to be the best wildlife site in Leicester and showed what could have been lost, had the development gone ahead  

City council plans to build a floodlit football pitch on Aylestone Meadows (a Local Nature Reserve and in part Local Wildlife Site) were rejected in March 2011, after hundreds of people campaigned against it (Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust was instrumental in this campaign – as well as objecting to the application, it organised a protest walk and created a media presence).

The city council wanted to build the pitch on green land to the south west of Braunstone Lane East, beside land which used to be used for football.  Councillors rejected the proposals by six votes to five, on the grounds that the pitch did not justify the amount of damage that would be caused.

A survey in 2012 of Aylestone Meadows by Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust and local naturalists - determined it to be the best wildlife site in Leicester - and showed what could have been lost, had the development gone ahead.  

It recorded over 600 species of flora and fauna, including 336 different plant species.  Several rare and notable species were discovered, such as slender spike rush, which has not been recorded in Leicestershire and Rutland since 1800, and the rapidly declining tubular water-dropwort. A large number of species that are indicators of good quality grasslands, such as meadow saxifrage, lady’s bedstraw and common meadow-rue were also found.

The Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust continues to work closely with Leicester City Council to ensure the long term protection of Aylestone Meadows. However, the Trust believes that Aylestone Meadows should not be managed in isolation, and additional resources from Leicester City Council and neighbouring local authorities are required to achieve a fully connected landscape along the Soar Valley.

Local Nature Reserves

Natural England states “A Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is for both people and wildlife.  LNRs offer people special opportunities to study or learn about nature or simply to enjoy it.  All district and county councils have powers to acquire, declare and manage LNRs.  To qualify for LNR status, a site must be of importance for wildlife, geology, education or public enjoyment.  There are more than 1,500 LNRs in England.  They range from windswept coastal headlands, ancient woodlands and flower-rich meadows to former inner city railways, abandoned landfill sites and industrial areas now re-colonised by wildlife.  In total they cover about 35,000 ha. They make an important contribution to England's biodiversity.

A Local Nature Reserve is for both people and wildlife

By declaring Local Nature Reserves (LNRs), local authorities can provide many benefits for both people and wildlife.  To increase people's awareness and enjoyment of their natural environment; provide an ideal environment for everyone to learn about and study nature; help to build relationships with national and local nature conservation organisations and local people; protect wildlife habitats and natural features; provide a great opportunity for people to become involved in managing their local environment; offer a positive use for land which they would prefer was left undeveloped; make it possible to apply bye-laws which can help in managing and protecting the site.  In addition, because Local Nature Reserve is a statutory designation, it is a very clear signal to a local community of the local authority's commitment to nature conservation.

Natural England recommends to local authorities that LNRs should be greater than 2ha in size; capable of being managed with the conservation of nature and the maintenance of special opportunities for study, research or enjoyment of nature as the main concern; it also recommends there should be 1ha of Local Nature Reserve space per 1,000 people in England.  LNRs should be either: of high natural interest in the local context, or of some reasonable natural interest and of high value in the local context for formal education or research, or of some reasonable natural interest and of high value in the local context for the informal enjoyment of nature by the public.

Tagged with: Living Landscapes, Planning