Wildlife concerns as housing plans branded ‘a backward step’

Bell Pit Wood
Bell Pit Wood

Plans to build new homes on three beauty spots in Burnley, recently rejuvenated by the council, have been slammed as ‘a backward step’ by a concerned resident.

Nursing sister and regular walker Helen Oldfield said she was worried that Millennium Wood, part of the Brun Valley Park, Bell Pit Wood, off Queen’s Park Road, and a grazing field off Ridge Avenue had been identified as preferred options under Burnley Borough Council’s emerging Local Plan.

Queen's Park Millienium Wood access paths

Queen's Park Millienium Wood access paths

The council had commissioned social enterprise group Newground to carry out a study on the Brun Valley Forest Park, which then held discussions with council Parks officers.

A Masterplan was later produced to illustrate the vision for the park, which resulted in the new improved network of pathways in the design project of Millennium Wood, only completed this spring.

Miss Oldfield said: “I have been impressed with the recent developments improving access to green spaces, particularly creating links with existing green protected spaces, Queen’s Park and Rowley Lake.

“Not only has access been improved but the whole ecology of the area, with extensive planting and managing of woodland and grassland.

In my mind Burnley Council needs to very much focus on the brownfield sites, of which there are many

Helen Oldfield

“I can’t believe, then, that the council wants to undo all the hard work it has put in recently in improving these areas by building houses here.

The purpose of the Masterplan was to engage residents and politicians to guide later, more detailed design work.

Now, Miss Oldfield, who recently moved back to Burnley after living outside the borough, is worried about the impact housing could have on the nature and wildlife on these sites.

She added: “The flora and fauna is there for all to see, with native trees and plants providing the perfect habitat for regular sighting of roe deer, badgers, foxes, rabbits, moles, bats, and several species of birds, insects, butterflies and moths too numerous to mention.

Grazing farmland, Ridge Avenue

Grazing farmland, Ridge Avenue

“In recent times it seemed we were going down an environmentally friendly ecological route all about creating wildlife habitats. Why is there now a change of plan to destroy these habitats?”

Miss Oldfield urged the council to concentrate on brownfield sites for future housing.

“Thousands of pounds of hard earned money have so recently been spent on these green sites, volunteers have given time planting trees, collecting rubbish and attending meetings.

“What has been created is something that enhances Burnley for its residents and wildlife, making it a more attractive place to live for everyone.

“In my mind Burnley Council needs to very much focus on the brownfield sites, of which there are many – derelict mills, factories, shops and wasteland where housing would actually enhance an area.

“I moved to Burnley thinking it was different in celebrating its open spaces, developing and linking them together and planning housing thoughtfully for the whole community. Why spoil this successful plan when there are so many alternative options to consider? This is definitely not something to rush into.”

A Burnley Council spokesman would not comment directly on the three sites in question.

The spokesman said: “This is one of hundreds of responses that we have received as part of the latest consultation on the draft Local Plan.

“It, along with others, raises relevant planning concerns and all comments, concerns and suggestions made will be fully and properly considered before the final draft of the Plan is prepared in December.

“This will be published for representations over a six-week period starting in January 2017.

These final representations will then be considered by an independent Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State who will conduct an ‘examination’ of the plan to consider whether it is sound and legally compliant.”