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Press Release – Anger at threat to local beauty spot

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Press Release

Anger at threat to local beauty spot

Planning application submitted for popular green open space

Frome Valley and Eastville Park.

Property developers acting for the Bristol Merchant Venturers have submitted plans that would see luxury houses built on a much loved green open space beside the Frome Valley Walkway and Eastville Park lake – in one of Bristol’s most beautiful and cherished historic landscapes – on land dismissed by the developers as ‘an unsightly corner’ (see picture below).
Local people have vowed to fight the plans and have formed a Community Association to organize their campaign.They say that this kind of insidious, piecemeal development threatens all green open space in Bristol, pointing out that the land is already protected within Bristol City Council planning policy1, but planning permission, if granted, would send out a signal that all green open space in Bristol was potentially available for development.They point to the recent CPRE report2From Wasted Space to Living Spaces’ – based on research by the University of the West of England – that shows Bristol has the capacity for to build more than 30,000 new homes on brownfield or previously developed land and that greenfield sites such as this do not need to be developed to meet housing needs. The report ‘paints Bristol’s use of brownfield land for development in a relatively positive light, saying Bristol City Council is good at encouraging the development of smaller ‘windfall’ sites, which means that they have less need to look at greenfield land for development’. Local residents say ‘this needs to be much more robustly enshrined in planning policy and that, as European Green Capital, Bristol should be much clearer in setting a national example in prioritizing brownfield development to protect green open space’.They also point out that the landowners, the Merchant Venturers, own Clifton Downs and share the management of Durdham Downs with the City Council.Campaign organizers are questioning how anyone proposing to build on such a unique green space purely for profit can be trusted with the stewardship of any important public space – will we see proposals for similar piecemeal development on the Downs?Earlier in the year, the proposed development site at Stapleton was brutally stripped of all vegetation and flailed back to bare earth before any ecological assessment was carried out. Locals reported the matter to the Police, believing that the clearance work had caused the partial collapse of a badger sett, and that this constituted an offence3. They were dismayed to see an area of dense undergrowth that had become a sheltered nesting site for birds and which supported such a variety of wildlife devastated at the start of the nesting season.Campaigners say this showed the developers in their true colours – as venal profiteers who sought to line their pockets at the expense of both the environment and a much loved local amenity. Local people have also been angered at the developer’s claims to have ‘allayed resident’s fears’ and say such claims have merely stoked their determination to fight the plans.The Protect Frome Valley @ Stapleton. Community Association4 are appealing to everyone who cares about the Frome Valley and Eastville Park – and the importance of preserving all such places across Bristol for future generations – to object to this application. Details and guidance can be found on the Association’s website http://protect.fromevalley.org/ENDS

Notes to Editors:
  1. Proposed development site is recognised in Bristol Local Plan as part of the Stapleton and Frome Valley Conservation area. It is also designated as part of a ‘Historic Park and Garden’ and as ‘Important Open Space’ for its amenity value, and as a ‘Wildlife Corridor’ for its importance to wildlife’. It is immediately adjacent to an ‘Area of Conservation Interest’. Such areas should be protected from development according to published planning policy. See http://protect.fromevalley.org/bristol-city-council-planning-policies/
  2. From Wasted Space to Living Spaces report published by Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and based on research by UWE. It is the first comprehensive figure for brownfield capacity in almost five years, and shows a minimum of 976,000 new homes could be built on identified brownfield sites across the country, with 30,000 in Bristol.
  3. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 prohibits any work that might kill, injure or disturb badgers or their sett. Such work requires a licence from Natural England and it is unlikely that one would have been granted during the breeding season, running from December to June. The clearance work was done in early February. For further details see http://badgertrust.org.uk/
  4. Campaign organized by ‘Protect Frome Valley @ Stapleton’ Community Association. For details see http://protect.fromevalley.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/savefromevalleyatstapleton
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The Bristol Post Newspaper Reports On Our 2nd Meeting

2nd Public meeting
Residents gather at Glenfrome Primary School to discuss battling the housing proposals Meeting held at Glenfrome Primary School 7pm 23rd March 2015

Reported in the Bristol Post Today:

A COMMUNITY is preparing to lock horns with a Bristol private school over plans to build homes on a playing field they say is a flood plain and a haven for wildlife.

People living in Stapleton are opposed to plans to build 12 luxury homes on the field belonging to Colston’s School.

Developer Woodstock Homes hopes to construct the homes on open land bordered by Welsford Avenue and Rowland Avenue, despite it enjoying protected status.

Residents say the field is home to a vast array of wildlife including bats, badgers and kingfishers. They have sought to fend off the plans by applying to have the land registered as a town green, which, if approved, would render it off limits for developers.

Last night, 50 residents gathered at Glenfrome Primary School to discuss battling the proposals, which have not been made the subject of a formal planning application.

Campaigners have set up a group called the Protect Frome Valley at Stapleton Community Association.

Chris Gibson, the association’s campaign organiser, said the field was part of a conservation area and designated important open space, as well as being a flood plain which had been submerged in recent years.

He said: “We don’t want this insidious, piecemeal development eating away at public open space. It’s not suitable for development – it’s designated for protection, which is what we are here to fight for.”

Residents said they had been disappointed by an exhibition about the development at the school, where, the meeting heard, representatives gave conflicting answers to questions and the headmaster was apparently unaware the field had been flooded.

Mr Gibson acknowledged there was a national housing shortage but said: “There’s a real need nationally for housing and we recognise people need somewhere to live but it’s a question of making sure they are building in the right place and not to the detriment of the general public for years to come.”

He suggested the school might have committed a criminal act by using a tractor during work to clear undergrowth on the field earlier this year, potentially damaging an active badger sett during breeding season.

Mr Gibson told the meeting there had been reports of several badgers walking around the streets, possibly displaced as a result of being disturbed by the work.

Residents were told the proposed homes would be up-market – worth more than homes in nearby streets – with neighbours estimating their possible market value to be between £300,000 and £400,000.

The meeting heard several residents feared that more than 12 homes might be earmarked for the open space, which is understood to be owned by the Merchant Venturers.

Colston’s School was unavailable for comment last night.

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Second Public Meeting

Dear Neighbours and Friends,
Now we have seen the plans for the proposed development on the site of the playing field, please join us for the second public meeting to discuss the way forward for our campaign.

Monday 23 March

The main entrance is off St. Johns Lane
                                                                                      

 AGENDA

 

  1. Welcome and Introduction
  2. Minutes of Meeting on Monday 9 March and Matters Arising
    1. i) Feedback from Colston Exhibition
    2. ii) Formation of Community Association
    3. iii) Finance: voluntary collection at end of meeting
  3. Reports
    1. i) Badger Report
    2. ii) Footpath Report
    3. iii) Flooding Report
    4. iv) Ecology Survey (Avon Wildlife Trust)
    5. v) Town Green Status
    6. vi) Other Reports
  4. Other Matters Arising
  5. Priorities for Action
  6. Any Other Business

 

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Public Exhibition at Colston’s School

At the ‘exhibition’ on Wednesday we learned that test drilling was planned as part of the geological survey required for the planning application. Given what we believe to be the case regarding the badger sett, I emailed the PR consultant and school Marketing Manager to inform them that we believed an offence may have been committed, and that any further works would require a licence. Any such licence is unlikely to be granted until the end of the breeding season in June.
The developers stated that their ecological assessment concluded the sett was not active and may be a fox den. This morning we have learned, thanks to Beryl, that grounds staff have been under instruction to maintain an exclusion zone around it when working in the area. I will leave it to you all to draw your own conclusions as to the degree to which we can trust anything the developers say. I attach a copy of the email I sent and the response.

Badger email

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Badgers

Where can badgers be found and what are the signs they are present?

Badgers prefer areas such as woodland edges or thick hedgerows. Badger setts vary in size – larger ones have can have over 40 entrances, whilst smaller ones may have as few as 2 entrances. Tunnels may extend a considerable distance, even up to 40 metres.
Setts can be used seasonally or all year round. Badgers often stay below ground for long periods in winter, especially in very cold or wet weather.
Any tunnel of 250mm or more in diameter should be considered as a possible sett. Entrance holes are generally wider than they are tall, appearing as a flattened oval. Badgers leave large soil heaps outside containing remnants of vegetation and often hairs (coarse white hairs with a black band near the tip). Their footprints are broad.
Other places of shelter occasionally used by badgers include sheds, concrete pipes or culverts. These are included in the legal protection given to setts.
Badger surveys are best carried out over a period of time. It is particularly difficult to tell whether a sett is occupied during winter.
What are the statutory requirements for protecting badgers?
Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, badgers and their setts have the following protection. It is an offence to:

  • wilfully kill, injure, ill-treat or trap badgers
  • intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct setts which show signs of current use by badgers, including seasonal use
  • disturb badgers whilst they are occupying a sett
  • cause a dog to enter a sett.

There are a number of statutory defences under the Act, relating to mercy killing and incidental disturbance or damage to setts where this is unavoidable.
Licensable activities
The Act also contains provisions to permit by means of a licence certain activities which would otherwise be prohibited, such as injuring, killing or taking badgers or interfering with a badger sett. There are 2 types of licence, which must be obtained before any work goes ahead:

  • licences from English Nature for new development
  • licences from DEFRA for all non-development matters. These include problems caused by badgers on existing roads and rights of way.

As a guide, the following activities may require a licence:

  • using heavy machinery within 30 metres of any entrance to an active sett
  • using lighter machinery, particularly for digging, within 20 metres of any entrance to an active sett
  • light work such as hand digging or scrub clearance within 10 metres of any entrance to an active sett
    1
    A licence may be granted with conditions. For example, for large setts, there may be requirements to:

    provide an artificial sett in a suitable safe area 6 months or more before destruction of a natural sett – if the sett is to be destroyed and no alternative setts are available
    enhance feeding areas and access routes for badgers both before and during building work.
    Disturbance to badgers in setts, sett exclusion and destruction should be avoided completely between the beginning of December and the end of June due to breeding and rearing of cubs and the reluctance of badgers to emerge for long periods in winter. It is most unlikely that licences will be issued for this period.
    Unlicensable activities
    Licences are only provided for certain specified activities. Other work may only be carried out close to a badger sett if:
    it is incidental to an otherwise lawful operation
    it is necessary and unavoidable
    any injury, damage or disturbance is avoided or minimised – through a variety of mitigating measures such as appropriate use of machinery and timing of work to avoid the breeding season.
    It is important to know that destruction of a badger’s foraging territory, the interruption of their paths to such territory or to water sources might be classed as cruel ill-treatment. Developments should ensure that this does not occur. Tunnels, gates and fencing can be provided to allow badgers access to existing feeding areas.
    What opportunities are there for mitigation and additional wildlife gains for badgers?
    Badgers can be disturbed by work near a sett even if there is no direct interference or damage to the sett. Work can be undertaken in particular ways to avoid disturbance and harm to badgers.
    Design of schemes should incorporate:
    a buffer zone between a sett and work area/buildings, with fencing and/or clearly marked with protective planting
    location of roads and footpaths well away from a sett, with protective planting.
    location of drains and underground services away from the sett
    replacement of lost foraging areas by provision and appropriate management of alternative open space
    greenways, such as hedgerows and planting along footpaths/cycleways, to allow badgers to reach feeding areas
    road crossing points using tunnels or culverts with associated badger-proof fencing – for busy roads crossing a well-established badger path
    if road tunnels are impractical, the use of reflectors on the road edge can help to give badgers advance warning of approaching vehicles.
    Where should I go for further information?
    English Nature. 2002. Badgers and Development.
    Individual copies of this free publication can be obtained from English Nature’s Enquiry Service, tel. 01733 455100/1/2 or email at enquiries@english-nature.org.uk 2
    For further information on mitigating measures for unlicensable activities, see below
    To obtain a development-related licence, contact:
    Licensing Section
    Terrestrial Wildlife Team
    English Nature
    Northminster House
    Peterborough
    PE1 1UA
    Tel. 01733 455141
    To obtain a non development-related licence, contact:
    Wildlife Administration Unit
    DEFRA
    Burghill Road
    Westbury-on-Trym
    Bristol
    BS10 6NJ
    Tel: 0845 6014523
    Fax: 0845 6013438
    Email: enquires.southwest@defra.gsi.gov.uk
    Protection of Badgers Act 1992
    Guidance Note for Unlicensable Operations Close to Badger Setts
    This note is intended to advise those who need to carry out work on, or near, badger setts where the purpose of the work does not fall within the scope of the Act. Licences are provided only for certain specified activities such as development of land. Other work may only be carried out if it is incidental to an otherwise lawful operation and in these cases the following should be considered:
    1. The work may only be carried out if necessary and unavoidable.
    2. The local badger group should be consulted if badgers may be disturbed within a sett to ensure that any risk of disturbance or injury is kept to a minimum. If such a risk exists a suitably experienced person should be on hand to advise.
    3. All digging within 10 metres of the nearest sett entrance should be done by hand.
    4. Noisy machinery near setts should be used before mid-day, if possible, to allow badgers to settle down afterwards so their normal foraging activity is not disrupted any more than necessary.
    5. Operations involving use of machines near setts should be undertaken only by those suitably trained or competent in the use of the equipment.
    6. Work near active badger setts should be carried out between the months of July and November, thus avoiding the badger breeding season (December to June) and avoiding the bird-breeding season when scrub clearance is undertaken.
    3
    4
    7. No chemicals should be used in the immediate area of a sett unless absolutely necessary and in these circumstances, only those known to be safe for animals should be used. Chemicals should be stored safely away from the sett area.
    8. Where badgers may be forced to move from the sett or place of shelter because the structure is being dismantled, the work should be carried out as late in the day as possible to avoid badgers being bolted above ground in broad daylight.
    9. Scrub clearance should be avoided over the tops of setts and close to sett entrances.
    10. Trees and shrubs should be felled away from the obvious direction of a sett and should not be uprooted but cut to ground level where necessary.
    11. All trenches left open overnight should include a means of escape for any animals that may fall in.
    12. Buildings and structures, such as sheds, may have to be dismantled, but in such cases the floor should be left in place, if possible, if it forms the top of the sett.
    13. Fires should be lit at the furthest distance possible from the sett.
    14. Obvious badger pathways should be left clear of obstruction.
    15. No dogs should be taken onto the site by any of the workforce.
    16. Reinstatement of sett damage should be under the guidance of an experienced badger worker.
    17. Entrances may be protected against materials falling in accidentally. Any methods used should not restrict airflow and must be removed before leaving the site at the end of the day.
    18. If the sett area is to be marked off to avoid interference, this should be done with rope, fencing or wire. Plastic tape can be very disturbing to badgers in windy weather and should be avoided.
    19. Where it is necessary to walk over the top of a sett, planking should be provided to spread the load if the soil is very light, or there is a chance of sett collapse.
    20. All work should be carried out as quickly and quietly as possible.

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