Cheshire Wildlife Trust say Wirral’s wildlife has not been considered in Local Plan

Cheshire Wildlife Trust have issued a stark warning to Wirral Council on the impact of their proposed development options on Wirral’s wildlife put forward in their local plan.

Rachel Giles, Evidence and Planning Manager at Cheshire Wildlife Trust has put forward her concerns as part of a public consultation on the council’s local plan.

The Trust is concerned that the clear guidance relating to sustainable development has been overlooked by not giving the natural and historic environment equal consideration to economic and social issues and that the plan proposes a significant threat to green belt land.

“We believe that at least 14 of the proposed options would result in significant harm to either SSSIs or Local Wildlife Sites. We are disturbed to see that these have been put forward when the government’s National Planning Framework specifically states that sites of biodiversity should be ‘protected and enhanced’,” said Rachel Giles.

Bluebells in Dibbinsdale SSSI, housing adjacent would threaten them with loss through trampling

Bluebells in Dibbinsdale SSSI, housing adjacent would threaten them with loss through trampling

Wirral Wildlife, the local volunteer group of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, has considered every parcel of land proposed. Hilary Ash from the group said, “We are particularly concerned about the possibility of building on large areas of land around Dibbinsdale SSSI, and around Local Wildlife Sites at Irby, Greasby, Prenton, Barnston and Storeton. Other areas under threat include those used by birds from the Dee estuary as roost grounds, and land supporting bats, great crested newts, hares and badgers. The cumulative effects of building on a large proportion of the proposed sites would be very damaging to Wirral’s wildlife, and to the opportunities for local people and visitors to enjoy that wildlife.”

The Trust also believes that the proposed development options have failed to take into account the priority that should be given to supporting a network of habitats for wildlife. “Even the top priority areas of habitat, seem to have been ignored,” said Rachel Giles. “Failure to take the network into account undermines the objectives of ecological network mapping to ensure that wildlife has connected habitat in which to feed, live and breed. The point of network mapping is to inform the planning process so that changes in land use retain and improve wildlife corridors and core sites. This helps reconnect fragmented populations of flora and fauna and over time should help with their recovery. The National Planning Framework states that planning policies must take a ‘strategic approach to maintaining and enhancing networks of habitats’, something that seems to be lost in these proposed plans.” A particular concern is the open land corridor east of the M53.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust have recommended that the ecological network is incorporated into Local Plan policies. “This is essential to inform decisions relating to the various development options and it is unacceptable it hasn’t yet been included,” said Rachel Giles.

Embedding an ‘environmental net gain principle for development, including housing and infrastructure’ is the overarching aim of the government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment which was released this year. But the Trust believe that this hasn’t been considered in these proposals. “Many of the sites put forward are areas of high wildlife value such as those important for ground nesting birds, which would make net gain very difficult to achieve unless tracts of land were set aside for the purpose of biodiversity offsetting

The proposals can be viewed on the Wirral Council’s website and comments can be submitted by e-mail, post or by completing the online form. The public consultation closes on 26th October 2018.