Our response to the plan to build on Scraptoft Nature Reserve consultation

15 December 2017

Below is the Harborough Green Parties response:

 

Status of Scraptoft Local Nature Reserve consultation response 

The Harborough Green Party objects to the proposal to de-declare the Local Nature reserve status of this land. The district has precious few sites reserved for nature and the Council should give the needs of our precious natural habitat areas as high a priority as making way for development land. 

 

This is equally apparent in the councils handling of the Lutterworth Misterton Marsh SSSI site which it is proposed will be surrounded by housing. Our fear is that as a Marsh this must have an impact on the hydrology of the site and consequentially the value of the Marsh as a SSSI. 

 

Harborough District Council has been very proud of its progress in helping develop and deliver neighbourhood plans to our rural communities and this process has cost a lot of money and consumed much social capital. 

 

It has recently become clear that these plans have little of no value when challenged legally but surely the Council that facilitated a plan should at least try and respect the spirit of the plan. 

 

3. Scraptoft Neighbourhood Development Plan 

 

3.1 Scraptoft Neighbourhood Plan (‘made’ on 11 March 2016) includes the following 

policy: 

 

Policy S11: Biodiversity 

 

New development should not harm the network of local ecological features and 

habitats. New development will be expected to maintain and enhance existing 

ecological corridors and landscape features (such as watercourses, hedgerows and 

tree-lines) for biodiversity. 

 

The retention and improvement of Scraptoft Local Nature Reserve is supported. 

Improvements should include: 

 

i) maintaining the quality and increasing the extent of species-rich grassland; 

Ii) improving the appearance and biodiversity value of boundaries; 

iii) information to the public; and 

iv) public safety. 

 

3.2 This plan was prepared and ‘made’ prior to knowledge of the proposed Scraptoft 

North Strategic Development Area proposal coming forward, or its proposed 

allocation in the Proposed Submission Draft Harborough District Local Plan 

(September 2017). 

 

Leicester city council own this site. It is leased and manage by Harborough district Council. We find it strange that there was such an oversight that and agreement between HDC and LCC was never formulised.  

Does this mean that HDC has not been fulfilling its obligations to maintain the site?  

Does this infer an advantage to HDC in the de-declaration process? 

 

Will there be an investigation into why this was not fulfilled and is the Council cabinet system able to provide adequate oversight of its functions? 

 

Would this land be better off leased to and managed by the Leicestershire & Rutland wildlife Trust? 

 

4.7  A Management Plan for the LNR was attached to the 2002 Executive report, attached at Appendix 2, and agreed as the plan for the LNR. The 2002 Executive report explains that a formal nature reserve agreement will be drawn up between Harborough District Council (as the site lies within its jurisdiction) and Leicester City Council (as owners of the site). The report goes on to say that the agreement will state ‘that the land will be managed in accordance with an agreed Management Plan (Appendix C to the 2002 report to Executive) jointly reviewed every 5 years from 1st December 2002’. There does not appear to be evidence that a Management Agreement was entered into between HDC and Leicester City Council. 

 

4.8  A guide published by Natural England in 2010 explains the process of declaring a LNR: 

 

‘The local authority makes a declaration that: 

The land is subject to an agreement entered into with them or has been acquired and is held by the authority; and 

The land is being managed as a nature reserve. 

If the agreement should end or the land to which the declaration relates ceases to 

be held by the local authority, it should make a declaration of this.’ 

 

4.9  It is unclear what, if any, maintenance has been carried out on the LNR since 2002. The 2017 Lloyd Bore Report1 indicates that some of the actions identified in the Management Plan appear not to have been undertaken. For example monies were identified to fund hedge planting and information signs and to infill gaps in the hedgerows adjacent to the sports pitch and Beeby Road, which appear to still be gappy, suggesting that these actions were not implemented.  

 

The plans contravene your own planning policies eg scraptoft neighbourhood plan 3.1. S11 biodiversity. 

 

4.1 The de-declaration of the Scraptoft Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is proposed for the following reasons: 

 

a) The site has been identified to help meet future housing needs and is proposed 

for allocation within the Proposed Submission Harborough District Local Plan 

(September 2017) as part of the Scraptoft North Strategic Development Area. 

b) The LNR does not appear to have been managed as per the original 

management plan, suggesting, in accordance with the relevant Act, that the 

LNR should be de-declared. 

c) The parts of the site with significant 

 

These reasons do not meet the de-declaration criteria in Natural Englands own planning policy para nine, where any changes must see a net gain for nature. Enhancing small pockets of higher value parts does not fulfil the criteria for a net gain. The degrading of the site has been, by your own admission, due to the lack of maintenance of the site by HDC. 

 

4.11  Natural England’s advice on the status of the LNR has formally been sought. Their response included the following recommendation: 

 

‘If LNR de-declaration is unavoidable, the local authority should consider declaring replacement LNR land which is at least equal to or higher value in terms of nature conservation, access and landscape than the area to be de-declared. Alternatively, it may be possible where there are small partial de-declarations for improvements in the quality of the remaining LNR to be offered to counteract the loss in land area. The overall aim should be to achieve a net gain for nature.’  

 

They also contravene national planning policies eg para nine, 103 and 113, because the changes harm natural and historic environment ( biodiversity and status as a POW camp) and represents a must definite net loss for nature. 

 

5.1  The National Planning Policy Framework states: 

 

Para 9: ‘Pursuing sustainable development involves seeking positive improvements in the quality of the built, natural and historic environment, as well as in people’s quality of life, including (but not limited to): .....‘moving from a net loss of bio-diversity to achieving net gains for nature’; 

 

Para 109: ‘minimising impacts on biodiversity and providing net gains in biodiversity where possible, contributing to the Government’s commitment to halt the overall decline in biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures’; 

 

Para 113: ‘Local planning authorities should set criteria based policies against which proposals for any development on or affecting protected wildlife or geo- diversity sites or landscape areas will be judged. Distinctions should be made between the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites, so that protection is commensurate with their status and gives appropriate weight to their importance and the contribution that they make to wider ecological networks’. 

 

5.2  Paragraph 118 of the National Planning Policy Framework and Harborough Proposed Submission Local Plan (September 2017) Policy GI5 require that a hierarchical approach is taken towards mitigating the negative effects   

 

It is the opinion of the Harborough Green party that wildlife is under multiple pressures with populations of insects collapsing in the last few years. Wildlife needs space in which to recover and thrive and to deny it this will have impacts on our rural agriculture as well as the mental health of our local population. 

 

We strongly oppose this proposal.