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Clive Vale LWS after clearing (photo: Richard Price).

Why are local wildlife sites in decline?

Hastings does not lack designated Local Wildlife Sites (LWS), but such sites are vulnerable to the machinations of developers. The Clive Vale LWS in the east part of town is a case in point, as Richard Price writes – recently cleared, its fate is shortly to be decided by a planning inspector.

Prior to Christmas a rumour spread throughout Hastings that land had been cleared between Barley Lane and Boyne Road, where the Clive Vale LWS lies, so that fracking could take place. Councillor Godfrey Daniel wrote that he was aware of the rumour, Cllr John Hodges thought it to be ridiculous as the geology was wrong. East Sussex County Council confirmed that there was no application and went on to state that no applications for fracking have been submitted to them.

People continued to ask why the land had been cleared. The answer was revealed during one of the meetings held as part of the examination of the Hastings Development Management Local Plan.

In this meeting, the aim of which was for developers, the council and the public to discuss Hastings Borough Council’s plans for the borough, Keith Hollidge, representing the owners of the land, said that he didn’t understand, “Why this site, which has been allocated for housing allocation for 30 years, was suddenly overnight turned into what the council suggest is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance.” He went on to outline an architectural plan for a housing development, stating that the council had not produced evidence of any land instability and that it was a suitable site for housing.

David Phillips, head of the Planning Policy Team, said, “I have been concerned about contradictory statements and approached the member services of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and found that the agent [Mr Hollidge] is not a chartered surveyor as stated in his submissions.” He distributed photographs of the condition of the LWS before and after it had been cleared of vegetation.

In fact the land between Barley Lane and Boyne Road has a history of land instability, with a very serious landslide reported on the front page of the Hastings Observer in the 1980s. In 1996 the council listed it in the Nature Conservation Strategy as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI).

SNCIs are now called Local Wildlife Sites but have no statutory protection. The public rely upon the goodwill of the owner to manage them in a manner that supports their designation as sites that are important for wildlife.

One out of every 10 LWSs has been lost or damaged since 2007 and many more are under threat. National planning rules require councils to identify potential sites and provide protection under local policy but they are powerless to protect. Land owners can reduce their biodiversity with the aim of ensuring that they are deselected.

Clive Vale LWS could be seen as an example of the flaw in the legislation – designating areas as wildlife sites but not affording them any statutory protection does not protect and may be unlikely to increase biodiversity. Planning law seems designed to ensure that LWSs can easily become housing. The site was cleared prior to a visit by the planning inspector who will be deciding if its current allocation is suitable or if it should be included in the plan as an area for housing.

 

Local Wildlife Sites in the Borough of Hastings in 2009

H1 Old Filsham Golf Course

H2 Broomgrove

H3 Clive Vale

H4 Augustus Way Pond

H5 Bulverhythe Shingle Beach and Cliffs

H6 Castle Hill

H7 Caves Road Cliffs

H8 Hastings Cemetery

H9 Church wood

H10 Lower Cornwallis Allotments

H11 Gorringe Stream

H12 Helenswood Meadows and Ponds

H13 High Street and All Saints Wall

H14 Hollington Valley

H15 Ledsham Close

H16 Ochiltree Woods

H17 Old Roar Ghyll

H18 Ponds Wood

H19 Rock-A-Nore Shingle Beach

H20 Wainwright Close

H21 Wishing Tree

H22 Water Tower

H23 South Saxons

H24 Glyne Gap

H25 Shornden Meadow

H26 Holmhurst St Mary

H27 West St Leonards Railway Embankments

H28 Summerfields Woods

H29 Shornden Woodland

H30 Filsham Reed Beds

H31 Marline Valley Woods

H32 Hastings Country Park

H33 St Helens Woods

Eight of the 33 sites – almost a quarter – were deselected after review in 2009:

Augustus Way Pond, Lower Cornwallis Allotments, Gorringe Stream, Helenswood Meadow and Pond, Ledsham Close, Water Tower, Shornden Meadow and Shornden Woodland.

The public were notified of the changes via the Local Plan Consultation.

The review report can be viewed here.

 

Posted 16:20 Wednesday, Feb 11, 2015 In: Home Ground

4 Comments

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  1. paddy stephenson

    The council have confirmed to me that BOTH Robsack Wood and Churchwood ancient woodland and Local Nature Reserve carry Local Wildlife Site status (formerly called SNCI’S).

    WHY – if the land up at Barley Lane is listed as a Local Wildlife Site have these irresponsible developers been permitted to clear this site without first producing an ecological survey? There are protected species on this site. How can these people do this unchallenged? This is something which needs ‘sorting out’ now.

    Comment by paddy stephenson — Saturday, Feb 14, 2015 @ 15:47

  2. Andrea Needham

    Hastings Council last week agreed to let SeaChange build a road across the Hollington Valley site, described as one of the best wildlife sites in the borough (https://combehavendefenders.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/4199/). The road will be followed by yet another ‘business park’ which will cover almost the entire site. That Hastings council keeps on giving SeaChange permission to build more and more of these ‘parks’, when they can’t fill the ones they’ve got, is absolutely shameful. If the value of a place can’t be measured in monetary terms, it is considered worthless and ripe for ‘development’.

    Comment by Andrea Needham — Wednesday, Feb 11, 2015 @ 22:49

  3. Ann Kelly

    Are you aware that the SNCI South Saxon’s Wetland at West St Leonards, is under threat from Amicus Horizon and our wonderful Hastings Council. They are planning to build 112 housing units on this Site of Nature Conservation Interest. The Wetlands is adjacent to the meadow, a flood plain which has 2 sites of Anthrax burial pits dating back to the 40’s. Major construction work such as is proposed will upset the aquatic plain and terrestrial area which is currently home to a variety of Birds, animals, spiders, butterflies and flora. It will potentially disturb anthrax spores and other dangerous substances. Amicus are pushing through their plan under the guise of building homes for people who need ” extra care”. Is this a fitting site to house vulnerable people? This Wetland area was proposed in the near past to be designated a Local Nature Reserve. What happened? Why wasn’t this achieved? This would be the most sensible use of this little pocket of outstanding beauty.

    If you want to help please go onto the Hastings Borough Council web site into planning application number HS/FA/1500076.
    Address; Former West St Leonards Primary School. Bexhill Rd St Leonards.

    Many thanks Ann Kelly

    Comment by Ann Kelly — Wednesday, Feb 11, 2015 @ 19:03

  4. Anton Hack

    Thank you for this informative account. I did wonder what was going on in the Clive Vale area. Let’s hope this ground is left to recover and stabilize again – why is it that developers can get away with developing on historically unstable land?

    Comment by Anton Hack — Wednesday, Feb 11, 2015 @ 18:26

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