Pendle beauty spot Gibb Hill to be designated as a Nature Reserve

A local beauty spot has finally been designated as a Nature Reserve after years of uncertainty over its future.

The land was originally bought as potential playing fields for Colne’s secondary schools by Lancashire County Council and subsequently transferred to Pendle Borough Council. Despite it hosting ecologically rich habitats of meadowland, including rare orchids and butterfies; as recently as 2021, under the last Labour-LibDem administration, it was designated for 216 houses under the now defunct Local Plan II.

Following the extra nine acres designated as wetland nature meadow at Alkincoates last year, the ruling Conservative Group is now formally designating Gib Hill as a Local Nature Reserve, which double the acreage of LNRs in Pendle.

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The news will come as a positive for residents who have been campaigning for years to protect the land from development.

View from Gibb Hill

Pendle councillors had already made a huge statement by voting not to allow house building on the treasured strip of green land between Nelson and Colne in March of this year.

Council leader, Coun. Nadeem Ahmed, said: “The previous administration believed this mega estate, linking Colne and Nelson, would have been a quick fix to boost Nelson’s town centre.

"Their muddle-headed thinking on this shows how little they understand about both towns and countryside, if they think concreting over this special landscape it the solution. They publicly claimed they wanted to protect Gib Hill, but they point blank refused to undertake a proper ecological survey over sequential seasons. This was the very first thing we did when we won the election.”

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Lancashire Wildlife Trust, which understood the importance of Gib Hill as meadowland, carried out its first survey in May 2021.

John Lamb, who carried the surveys out, explained: “Several of the meadows are of Biological Heritage Status. Gib Hill has species-rich meadows, which have declined by over 95% since WWII and are now scarce in the UK. Along with its ancient hedgerows, the Hill is a refuge for rare and threatened plants and animals.”

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The Conservative Group set up a Working Group to manage Gib Hill which is chaired by Coun. Ash Sutcliffe.

At the first meeting of the Group, it was agreed that the land should stay in the ownership of Pendle Council, but that it should be formally designated as an LNR. This designation was approved by the Policy and Resources Committee on August 25th.

Coun. Sutcliffe explained: “We have co-opted local people and ecologists onto our Working Group and it was explained that we need to be proactive in our management of this important site, so we have returned to traditional haymaking for the first time in over a decade.

"After being cut for hay, the range of wildflowers will increase over time. We are now looking into applying for grants to make a wetland area on part of the site.”

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Coun. Ahmed commented: “The formal designation of Gib Hill as a local nature reserve is a big step forward in the Conservatives’ aim to protect and enhance Pendle’s green spaces.”