Liberal Democrats object to leisure development which threatens wildlife habitat in north Newcastle

April 21, 2015 1:23 PM

Here's what David Down, Pauline Allen and Robin Ashby have submitted to North Tyneside Council :

Maxine Ingram

Planning Officer

North Tyneside Council

The Silverlink North

CobaltBusinessPark

North Tyneside, NE27 0BY

Dear Maxine

15/00376/FUL Proposed leisure and entertainment facility with associated restaurant. Land At Salters Lane.

We object to the planning application submitted by Max-a-Million on the site adjacent to Gosforth Park Nature Reserve. The application is adjacent to Parklands Ward whose constituents we represent for Newcastle City Council.

We object on the grounds of ecological impact and impact of landscape, as set out below:

1. Ecological Impact

In the 13 years since this site was actively managed it has reverted to nature and is now a grassland/scrub habitat which has been re-colonised by wildlife. Due to being adjacent to Gosforth Park Nature Reserve (SSSI) this site and other similar adjacent sites on the business park attract a number of species from the reserve to feed and also act as a wildlife corridor. As a result it has a much greater wildlife value than such habitat might otherwise support and will have an indirect impact on the nature reserve and its wildlife.

Gosforth Nature Reserve is not a zoo. Wildlife moves freely in and out of the reserve. Indeed this is essential for many of the creatures in the reserve - wildlife moves around to exploit different habitats and food sources at different times (depending on the weather, time of day, time of year, etc). For the wildlife in the reserve the other habitats adjacent to the reserve provide essential foraging habitat that they exploit as part of their home range. For some creatures these areas are visited daily, others may only visit at certain times of year but when they do it may be crucial to their survival. It is important to point out that it is also the mosaic of habitats that is important in this context as they provide variety and that the grassland/scrub habitat on the development site is uncommon in the vicinity.

The applicant has not been able to carry out any breeding wildlife or bat surveys due to their rush to submit an application and they have deliberately carried out groundworks on the site in March to damage the ecology of the site in order to speed the progress of their development.

As it stands this proposal will destroy the habitat and wildlife on this site, including its use by a number of BAP species and the applicants proposals do not adequately mitigate or compensate for this loss.

The UK Biodiversity Strategy (UK Biodiversity 2020: A Strategy for England's Wildlife and Ecosystem Services, 2011) aims "to halt overall biodiversity loss, support healthy well-functioning ecosystems and establish coherent ecological networks, with more and better places for nature for the benefit of wildlife and people." The strategy describes the components of a coherent ecological network as follows:

"Ecological networks generally have five components:

• Core areas of high nature conservation value which contain rare or important habitats or ecosystem services. They include protected wildlife sites and other semi-natural areas of high ecological quality. This would include Gosforth Park Nature Reserve.

• Corridors and 'stepping stones' enabling species to move between core areas. These can be made up of a number of small sites acting as 'stepping stones' or a mosaic of habitats that allows species to move and supports ecosystem functions.

• Restoration areas, where strategies are put in place to create high value areas (the 'core areas' of the future), restoring ecological functions and wildlife.

• Buffer zones, that protect core areas, restoration areas, and 'stepping stones' from adverse impacts in the wider environment. This would include land adjacent to Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, namely the proposed development site.

• Sustainable use areas, areas of surrounding land that are managed in a sustainable and wildlife friendly way."

The Max-a-Million proposal clearly conflicts with the national biodiversity strategy plans to protect and create coherent ecological networks by building on the buffer zone and wildlife corridors for Gosforth Park Nature Reserve.

A number of planning policies relating to biodiversity in the North Tyneside UDP are now expired. The default position would therefore be to consider the NPPF and the emerging North Tyneside Core Strategy:

When determining planning applications in accordance with the Local Plan and the presumption in favour of sustainable development local planning authorities should aim to conserve and enhance biodiversity by applying a number of principles, including if significant harm resulting from a development cannot be avoided, adequately mitigated, or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused. (NPPF Paragraph 118).

S8.4 Biodiversity and Geodiversity

The Borough's biodiversity and geodiversity resources will be protected, enhanced and managed having regard to their relative significance. Priority will be given to:

b. achieving the objectives and targets set out in the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework and Local Biodiversity Action Plan;

d. Protecting, enhancing and creating new wildlife links.

(North Tyneside Local Plan Consultation Draft 2015 P115)

DM8.5 Managing effects on Biodiversity and Geodiversity

All development proposals should:

a. protect the biodiversity and geodiversity value of land, species and buildings and minimise fragmentation of habitats and wildlife links; and

b. maximise opportunities for creation, restoration, enhancement, management and connection of natural habitats; and

c. incorporate beneficial biodiversity and geodiversity conservation features providing net gains to biodiversity, unless otherwise shown to be inappropriate.

(North Tyneside Local Plan Consultation Draft 2015 P115)

The applicants own ecological appraisal states that as a result of the ecological damage that would be caused that mitigation is necessary and that: "The local planning authority are likely to require the means of delivery of the mitigation to be identified. It is recommended that mitigation and enhancement proposals are incorporated into the master-planning documents." (E3 Ecology Appraisal, P5)

However E3's recommendation has not been adequately implemented. For the loss of 2,230 metres2 of wildlife habitat (adjacent to a nature reserve and supporting BAP species) the applicant is proposing to create a small SUDs wetland (approx size 40 metres2) which will receive road run-off and therefore contain pollutants. In addition the planting of 100 linear metres of native hedgerow. It is estimated that over 100 young trees have been cut down by the developer who will only plant 24 in their place.

The Ecological Appraisal identifies that the site is acting as a wildlife corridor with movement N-S and E-W. However the applicant has not made sufficient effort to maintain an E-W corridor (they have proposed a narrow 2.5 metre wide strip which will be almost 100% hedgerow) and would mean larger mammals would have to walk across the car park. The land to the south is undeveloped and owned as part of the same land parcel - it would be very easy for the applicant to extend their development further south in order to incorporate a sufficiently wide wildlife corridor which would meet their planning (mitigation) obligations or alternatively to remove out the southerly row of car parking spaces. These options should have been suggested to the applicant in early meetings with North Tyneside Council.

2. Impact on Landscape

This site is directly adjacent to (and highly visible from) Areas of Local Landscape Significance as set out in the Newcastle Character Assessment (2009) but this has not been considered by the applicant.

The applicant has apparently been advised by planners at North Tyneside Council that landscape is not an issue. Whilst it might not be an issue in North Tyneside it clearly is an issue across the boundary in Newcastle and they should have advised the applicant of this. As a result the proposal put forwards by the applicant is purposely designed to advertise the building and its activities to people passing the site rather than to blend into the high quality landscape adjacent to it. The design is therefore inappropriate and should not be permitted as it currently stands.

Newcastle Core Strategy (2015):

A positive approach to the conservation of the landscape, recognising

various levels of sensitivity, will be an important element in considering

proposals for development which could affect it. Local landscape

character assessments provide specific information about the identity

and character of an area and will be used to guide new development in a

sustainable and appropriate way. P107, Para 12.50

Policy CS18 Green Infrastructure and the Natural Environment:

A high quality and comprehensive framework of interconnected green infrastructure that offers ease of movement and an appealing natural environment for people and wildlife will be achieved by:

2. Protection, enhancement and management of green infrastructure assets

which include:

i. Biodiversity and geodiversity assets, including designated sites,

designated wildlife corridors and priority habitats and species,

ii. Distinctive landscape character, recognising the particular importance of

our rivers and topography,… P105

The Newcastle Character Assessment makes clear that development should respect areas of landscape importance:

"This document is about protecting and reinforcing the identity and distinctiveness of Newcastle's landscapes and townscapes and ensuring that new development respects what is there and what is valued and makes the city a better place." Foreward

The proposed Max-a-Million development is adjacent to the landscape character area described as GOSFORTH PARK ZONE G:

This larger zone located on the north eastern edge of Newcastle upon Tyne, has relatively few buildings, supports an excellent range of wildlife on a diverse range of habitats, much of the area being designated for its local or regional nature conservation importance and Gosforth Lake is of national significance as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Sect 2 pgg 1

The area was originally part of the Gosforth Park Estate of the Brandling family, centred around the 18th century Gosforth House (itself now part of the racecourse buildings), and was laid out broadly in line with the informal English Landscape style popularised by Capability Brown, with a stone boundary wall and notable gateway features and lodges. Sect 2 pgg 2

The document identifies the zones key strengths as being part of the Gosforth Park designed historic landscape, wildlife and habitats, designated wildlife sites and plantation woodland and trees. Sect 5 pgg 4

SUB-AREA G01 HEATHERY LANE(adjacent to Max-a-Millions site)

The area is broadly traditional agricultural landscape but with landscaped parkland feel in places, of average condition, but high ecology and heritage value. The major strengths of this sub-area are that it is a wedge of open land extending well into the built up area; Diverse scenery and vegetation cover; and it was formally part of a designed historic landscape. The document lists 'Don'ts' as 'allowing intrusive development' and 'lose aesthetic appeal of the historic tree belts and copses'. NCA Info Sheet G01

This sub-area scored 39 out of 53 and is placed equal 12th out of 64 rural zones assessed across Newcastle.

SUB-AREA G02 HIGH GOSFORTH PARK AREA

Former country house and estate in densely wooded parkland setting, generally in average condition, with strong ecology and heritage value. The major strengths of this sub area are the extensive protected tracts, veteran trees, Nature Reserve and diverse scenery and vegetation cover. The document lists 'Don'ts' as 'allowing intrusive development', 'suburbanise the through road', and 'lose aesthetic appeal of historic tree belts and copses'. NCA Info Sheet G02

This sub area scored 43 out of 53 and is placed equal 4th out of 64 rural zones assessed across Newcastle.

Both sub-areas are considered to be in an exclusive list of the strongest character and best quality rural landscapes across Newcastle, in particular due to strong historical, ecological and visual values.

Conclusions

The site was first put forwards for development in North Tyneside around 30 years ago. Much has changed in that time in the planning system and how we are trying to protect and enhance biodiversity and our most important landscapes. Much has also changed since an application on this site was approved in 2008, for example the NPPF, UK Biodiversity Strategy and NewcastleGateshead Core Strategy. In particular the 2008 decision was based on a UDP which was published in 2002. The development proposal by Max-a-Million does not adequately mitigate for the negative impact that it will have on biodiversity and landscape, as much in Newcastle as in North Tyneside, and should be refused permission.