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Nature Conservation Forum warning over Local Plan

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Geoff Settle

WARRINGTON Nature Conservation Forum – whose members include ecologists and wildlife experts – is campaigning against the borough council’s Local Plan.
They are urging people to ask themselves: “Is wildlife under threat on your doorstep by the proposals in the draft local plan?”
The plan acknowledges the borough’s natural assets, which include 55 local wildlife sites, five local nature reserves, four Sites of Special Scientific Interest and three Special Areas of Conservation.
But WNCF  ornithologist Les Jones said: “Warrington has so much more that also need protecting especially on very small sites such as rare orchids (Bee and Northern Marsh) at risk of being mowed down in Stockton Heath and Birchwood Way verges.
“Other wildlife species are sprayed with herbicides.”
“Our view is that a plan should begin with an assessment of the natural environment. What we see is a plan driven by exaggerated Central Government housing targets and a lottery for land grab by developers. Sacrificing the Green Belt is not an option that we support.”
Ornithologist Brian Martin said Warrington has been without a natural environmental officer since 2014
“We are renewing our call for the borough council to re-instate the role of a natural environmental officer which was killed off five years ago because of austerity. This is a very significant role which has been contracted out to Greater Manchester Ecology Unit based in Tameside.
“Warrington needs to re-instate the role in-house because of the sheer amount of planning applications due to be processed. There have been too many examples of developers destroying habitats such as badger sets, small thickets or ponds.”
Ecologist Paul Speake said: “People should contact us via our web site www.wncf.co.uk or the Cheshire Wildlife Police Officer via 101 if they suspect anyone causing damage to local habitats”
WNCF chairman Geoff Settle said: “The Mersey Forest based at Risley Moss have a plan for Warrington that is of great importance to the borough but which is not referenced in the Local Plan.
“The council has a great partner in the Mersey Forest who can understand the greater importance of trees to capture carbon and pollution to help mitigate climate change. This would reduce impact of sound alongside busy roads and motorways. In addition, tree roots bind earth and help fight against soil erosion and flooding whilst their canopies provide a wildlife corridor for bats, insects, birds etc. and shade.
Mr Settle said “As a geographer and a parish path warden, I hope there will be an opportunity to establish new footpaths even though WBC is without a rights of way officer. From a wildlife point of view, I would like to see the development of Linescapes or green footpaths for wildlife as advocated by Hugh Warwick.
“He told me about his lifetime research of hedgehogs and their movements. He argued that the principles are applicable to other species to get to places to feed or breed. They should be protected, and any obstacles removed or mitigated.”
WNCF is also very concerned about the loss of parts of Moore Nature Reserve which has increasingly  rare examples of wet woodland habitat and is home to several “Red List” species, such as the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Willow Tit as well as the Bittern.
The closing date for comments about the local plan is June 17. More details are available at https://www.warrington.gov.uk/yourlocalplan

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