Peterborough - The UK Environment Capital?

Thursday 9th February 2017

Red kite above Castor Hanglands

The Wildlife Trust BCN objects to development sites included in Peterborough's Local Plan

Sustainable growth enhances the quality of natural habitats and populations of wild species, and provides green spaces that local people enjoy. The Wildlife Trust BCN supports Peterborough’s aspiration to be the 'Environment Capital' of the UK. However, this aspiration is undermined by the Council’s unfortunate choice of new locations for major development and their failure to provide sufficient safeguards and environmental sustainability in the draft Peterborough Local Plan.

The Council’s own assessments of the suitability and sustainability of their chosen locations for new development are fundamentally flawed, have been inconsistently applied and so have downplayed or missed major negative impacts on the natural environment.

In particular, the Wildlife Trust objects to the major housing allocations at Castor/Ailsworth and Norwood because they will result in significant negative impacts on nationally important nature reserves located within 100 metres of the new developments.

The John Clare Country Living Landscape west of Peterborough is one of the most important places around Peterborough where there are real opportunities for creating a more coherent network of habitats. The proposed development of 2,500 homes at Castor/Ailsworth is the wrong development in the wrong location. It is contrary to many policies in the local plan, including those covering biodiversity, ancient woodland, open countryside, transport and the settlement hierarchy. Castor/Ailsworth would also become a car dependent development, increasing pollution in other areas of John Clare Country.

Castor Hanglands National Nature Reserve, Barnack Hills & Holes National Nature Reserve and Dogsthorpe Star Pit nature reserve - to name just three - are already being adversely impacted by recreational pressure from visitors, and the proposed developments would increase this pressure. These impacts include disturbance to wildlife, trampling of vegetation, pollution of species-rich grasslands by dog faeces and attacks on grazing livestock.

However, this need not be the case. The Wildlife Trust believes that new development around Peterborough has the potential to create areas of high quality green spaces and habitats in the right locations, enhancing the local environment and improving the lives of local people.

If the proposed Norwood development north-east of Peterborough included a commitment to create a sufficient area of high quality green space and wildlife habitats, the Wildlife Trust believes that the development could be acceptable and avoid negative impacts on nearby Dogsthorpe Star Pit nature reserve. This development could also provide new green space in a part of the city which is deficient in such high-quality sites, and so contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of new and existing residents alike.

Providing attractive and stimulating green spaces which people want to visit and enjoy, where wildlife thrives, and which reduce the excess recreational pressures suffered at many nature reserves is essential if Peterborough is to truly become the 'Environment Capital' of the UK.