Councillors from across all political parties at Pendle Council’s Annual Full Council meeting in May voted unanimously to allow Lancashire Wildlife Trust to do three ecological surveys on the hill, part of which is designated as a Biological Heritage Site.
Local campaigner and naturalist Alison Plackett, who has been fighting to protect the hill for the last 20 years, said: “This is a breakthrough. Pendle Council officers have been blocking all our efforts to get the hill properly surveyed because the council owns the land and has been intent on selling it off for housing to make money.
“We are delighted that local councillors agree that our hill has far more value as a natural resource for local people in Colne and Nelson to enjoy and as a unique natural habitat, rich in species.
Ecologist John Lamb, who carried out the original survey of Gib Hill back in 2005, will carry out three seasonal surveys.
He is a highly experienced wildlife surveyor and wildlife auditor who carries out project surveys for Natural England and has won the Royal Society of Wildlife Trust UK Auditor of the Year Award on more than one occasion.
Alison Plackett said: “In 2005 John Lamb surveyed Gib Hill fields and officially informed Pendle Council that some of them merited BHS status. Within days Pendle Council allowed their fields to be flail mown, apparently without an Environmental Impact Assessment or Management Plan.
“It was devastating to see,” she said, adding:
“This destructive mowing did not protect and enhance the Biological status, which is a stated aim of the Council, but instead resulted in destruction of biodiversity-including the Common Blue Butterfly and the flightless Meadow Grasshopper which were lost from the site.”
Pendle Council then employed The Environment Partnership to survey the fields, a company used by housing developers such as Persimmons and Barratt Homes.
“Unsurprisingly, they only found biodiversity along the field edges! This survey done in September, one month after being flailed, missed several important spring and summer flowering plants!”
Local resident Andrew Ashworth said: “Councillors have previously made the decision to proceed down the path of releasing Gib Hill from the control of Pendle Council so that it can be protected in perpetuity and enhanced as a Local Nature Reserve. This is clearly what the locals of Colne, Nelson and the rest of Pendle wish.
“Pendle Council officers’ determination to build houses on the meadows and woodlands are misguided and misjudge the residents’ feelings. This natural greenspace is already a wildlife haven, a green lung separating Nelson from Colne, and has the potential to become an even greater ecological asset to Pendle.”
Liz Hurley of the group Hillside Heroes which is working to protect Gib Hill said:
“Local people can play an important part in protecting the hill we all love, from bird watching to litter picking and photography, we will fight to protect Gib Hill!
To find out more visit Hillsideheroes.org, visit them on Facebook or email them on [email protected]