The Strategic Growth Option will not involve the loss of any ancient woodland. It will be located adjacent to a number of ancient woodlands and so will be designed sensitively to protect them.
The Local Plan’s evidence includes a bat survey, ecological survey and emerging SGO master plan.
The Government’s specialist advisors, Natural England and Forestry England, along with the Wildlife Trust supported by 2,073 individuals, and other environmental organisations, objected to the June 2018 version of the Local Plan. The Council has continued regular and detailed discussions with Natural England, Forestry England and other environmental organisations.
The Council has agreed a statement of common ground with Natural England, the Forestry Commission, Forestry England and the SGO developers on the measures needed to protect the ancient woodland. On this basis these organisations consider the Local Plan is ‘sound’.
The Local Plan’s SGO policy already requires there to be no adverse impact on the ancient woodland. However as a result of its discussions with the other organisations / in line with its statement of common ground with the other organisations, the Council has proposed to the Planning Inspector modifications to the Local Plan SGO policy which also require:
- A net gain in the biodiversity of the ancient woodlands;
- The provision of new green spaces, tree planting and habitat creation including:
- Open buffers of at least 50 metres between the development and the woodland;
- Stronger green links between the woodlands, including an enlarged area of green space between Upperbarn Copse and Crowdhill Copse;
- A nature park.
- Measures to provide environmental connections across the link road (for example green bridges, animal tunnels, and overarching trees);
- Retention of individual mature trees and hedgerows within the site wherever possible, or else their replacement;
- Careful design of the development;
- Restoration and enhancement of the existing woodland;
- A visitor management plan
- Long term funding to maintain the new habitats, nature park and visitor management measures.
These measures provide extra protection to ensure that the ancient woodland and the biodiversity they support are protected and enhanced.