Wildlife Trust Opposes Wolverhampton Green Belt Grab

Wednesday 5th October 2011

See below for Image licence detailsSmestow Valley LNR

Today the Wildlife Trust submitted a formal objection to plans to build a new training centre for Wolverhampton Wanderers, which would also see the relocation of a school and the building of fifty 'executive homes' in the City's Green Belt. Adjacent to Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve, the plans would set a dangerous precedent for development on Woverhampton's few remaining areas of open land.

The text of the Wildlife Trust's objection is as follows:

11/00828/FUL Demolition of the existing St Edmund’s Catholic School etc

Compton Park, Wolverhampton, WV39DU

Thank you for consulting the Wildlife Trust on this application, we would like to make the following comments.

The Wildlife Trust objects to this application on the following grounds:

  • the location in Green Belt
  • the harmful nature conservation precedent that could be set
  • the nature conservation impacts of the application

The Wildlife Trust notes that this application is not located in a Black Country Regeneration Corridor as set out in the Black Country Core Strategy, but is located within Wolverhampton’s Green Belt, adjacent to the Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation with which it has common boundaries.

The nearby Smestow Brook, Staffordshire and Worcester canal and associated disused railway provide the basis of a significant landscape feature forming a strategic corridor through Wolverhampton which connects northern Wolverhampton to the open countryside south west of the city. The biodiversity and geodiversity of this corridor has had longstanding planning and environmental recognition. The application site currently provides a point of access to the LNR and SINC for residents living in this area.

Whilst the majority of the application site comprises amenity grassland and buildings and associated hard standing, there are ecological features present. These include: areas of broadleaved woodland, old hedgerows and many groups of mature trees (plus single trees). These features are located mainly in the south of the application site, in the vicinity of the school. In addition, Graisley Brook, a tributary of Smestow Brook, is culverted beneath the application site emerging in the Local Nature Reserve to the west.

Just to the west of the application site in the Local Nature Reserve is a range of habitats including Smestow Brook, the canal, grassland, wetland and hedgerow. As a result there is an array of European and UK protected species (BAP) National and Local BAP priority species, and species of conservation concern. These include at least three species of bat, mammals including water vole and badger and a range of bird species.

The ecological survey supporting the application identifies ecological impacts on some of the protected species present, including bats. These impacts and associated mitigation measures are associated with the proposed housing development and the rebuild of the school.

The Trust notes that measures to enhance, restore and add to the natural environment within the application site and its environs appear to be largely absent. In particular, the Trust is disappointed that the opportunity to break out Graisley Brook from the culvert has not been taken.

Having established the environmental significance of the application site and its location, the Trust would like to comment on the planning policy context, particularly in relation to the natural environment and the Black Country Core Strategy. BCCS Policy CSP1 The Growth Network focuses the provision of housing within the Black Country Regeneration Corridors. The housing element of this application does not lie within a regeneration growth corridor in Wolverhampton but within the Green Belt. In addition CSP2 Development Outside the Growth Network clearly directs development away from the Green Belt, as per the policy below:

By 2026, the areas outside the Strategic Centres and Regeneration Corridors will provide:

• A strong Green Belt to promote urban renaissance within the urban area and provide easy access to the countryside for urban residents where the landscape, nature conservation and agricultural land will be protected and enhanced where practical and possible;

In light of the above the Wildlife Trust is of the view that should the City Council grant permission for this development, it will risk setting a precedent in terms of locating housing within Wolverhampton’s Green Belt, contrary to Policies CSP1 and CSP2. The City Council should be aware that there are significant nature conservation assets within Wolverhampton’s Green Belt including nine Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation and seven Sites of Local Importance for Nature Conservation. These collectively support an array of national and local BAP priority habitats and species, together with a range of protected species and species of conservation concern. These assets will be at risk if the precedent of permitting housing development in the Green Belt is established.

Further, given the lack of measures to enhance, restore and add to the natural environment within the application site and its environs, the Trust has the view that the application fails to implement BCCS Policy ENV1 Nature Conservation as per the policy below:

All appropriate development should positively contribute to the natural environment of the Black Country by:

  • extending nature conservation sites;
  • improving wildlife movement; and/or
  • restoring or creating habitats / geological features which actively contribute to the implementation of Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) and/or Geodiversity Action Plans (GAPs) at a national, regional or local level.

Details of how improvements (which are appropriate to the location and scale) will contribute to the natural environment, and their ongoing management for the benefit of biodiversity and geodiversity will be expected to accompany planning applications.

In view of this potentially harmful precedent and the accompanying failure to contribute to the natural environment and its’ on-going management, the Wildlife Trust therefore wishes to object to this application.

"it will risk setting a precedent in terms of locating housing within Wolverhampton’s Green Belt" - The Wildlife Trust

The header image was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph's page on the Geograph website for the photographer's contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by Roger Kidd and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.