Developer says Chatteris Wenny Meadow development will lead to loss of biodiversity
A housing developer has said that the construction of 93 houses on Chatteris' former Manor Park, now known locally as "Wenny Meadow", will "result in a potential biodiversity net loss".
In a Biodiversity Net Gain Assessment, carried out at the request of Fenland District Council, the developer's ecologist highlighted that even after mitigation and habitat improvement works are carried out there will be a small loss of biodiversity which will need to be compensated for by "offsetting" the scheme with biodiversity improvements elsewhere.
The meadow is home to eleven UK "priority species" of birds, bats, and reptiles. All ten species of bats found at the meadow are considered to be protected species.
The meadow is also home to a rare species of false scorpion, only found in a few sites across the country such as Windsor Park and Sherwood Forest. Speaking at the time of the discovery, Prof Brian Eversham, CEO of the Cambridgeshire branch of The Wildlife Trust, said that "the invertebrate habitat won't survive fragmentation" caused by development.
National planning policies say local planners "should promote the conservation, restoration and enhancement of priority habitats, ecological networks and the protection and recovery of priority species".
The Fenland Local Plan says that the council will refuse permission for "developments that would cause demonstrable harm to a protected habitat or species, unless the need for and public benefits of the development clearly outweigh the harm and mitigation and/or compensation measures can be secured to offset the harm and achieve, where possible, a net gain in biodiversity".
Campaigners from the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign say these protections should be applied to Wenny Meadow. They say that the developer appears to have mis-classified the existing habitat types as "improved grassland", giving it a lower classification in biodiversity assessments than that recorded by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre.
Campaigners also highlighted that the biodiversity loss would be even greater if the developer's Ecological Management Plan, which explains how Canon Kirk will improve the ecology of the development after it is built, fails to deliver the benefits it promises.
Kirsty Patterson, a member of the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign, said: "The mitigations suggested by the developer are designed to charm the planning committee into approving development, but are fanciful at best. It is a fairytale to expect that these mitigations will be maintained for the 30 years required by planning best practices and the council's wildlife officer.
"The Ecological Management Plan relies on a management company being set up to carry out the work, but only outlines seven years of maintenance without explaining how this will be funded. It is unacceptable that the developer is still predicting a biodiversity loss, even with these unrealistic and inadequate mitigations. This just goes to prove that the habitats at Wenny Meadow are valuable and irreplaceable, even when assessed in a report commissioned by the developers. This site is completely unsuitable for development.