Councils 'should research harm to wildlife before backing development'

Councils 'should research harm to wildlife before backing development'

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Local and parish councils have been urged to consider the effect of large-scale housing developments on wildlife before backing schemes that could see acres of vital habitat lost in the UK.

The plea comes after the authorities in the Suffolk town of Sudbury were heavily criticised by conservationists for agreeing to allow building work to take place at a former quarry site, which led to wildlife including hedgehogs and grass snakes being displaced, the Ipswich Star reports.

Sudbury tree warden Jill Fisher said no site visits were carried out to assess the impact of building work before the land development was agreed to, even though the Natural Environmental and Rural Communities Act 2006 called for councils to act to preserve their natural environments as much as possible.

"Town councillors might not have a final say as to whether planning permission is granted but we need to be able to rely on them to put forward an informed opinion. As local people, they should know the area and at least make an effort to visit development sites before submitting a view," she commented.

Although this situation refers to the Sudbury area in particular, it is a scenario that is being echoed in locations up and down the country, particularly in rural areas, as more and more wildlife habitats are given over to developers.

Earlier this year, the Campaign to Protect Rural England criticised the government's planning reforms for "unnecessarily damaging the countryside and undermining local democracy while failing to prioritise the reuse of brownfield land and regeneration of urban areas", with plans underway to build 700,000 new homes under the National Planning Policy Framework.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph revealed figures in the summer showing that 15 new homes in England are now approved on Green Belt land every day, despite it being designed to guard against urban sprawl.

Each time such land is lost, it is harder and harder for wildlife to survive; without trees, birds have nowhere to shelter and nest, while hedgehogs have fewer pockets of green space to forage and hide from busy roads.

Hopefully, these pleas are heard by councils and the government so that plans can be put in place to preserve vital habitats for future generations.

In the meantime, why not do all you can for Britain's wildlife by making your garden a haven? We stock nest boxes and supplementary food for hedgehogs (unfortunately UK hedgehogs have declined by a third in ten years), as well as lots of different products for other species too.