Ysella Sims

Celebrating nature, people and place

The view from the hill

Undoubtedly the last year has been tough. Many people have suffered the loss of a loved one, or experienced life-changing illness, people have lost homes and jobs; the reckoning will be years in the making. And we’ve all learned things. Individually we might have learned to play the ukelele or how to crochet to keep fingers busy and soothe the mind or, like me, you might have learned that your partner has a tone of voice that they keep just for talking to clients on the phone…

Collectively we’ve learned the importance of community and co-operation, and of the irrefutable link between us and our natural environment. Green spaces have been a lifeline for city and rural dwellers alike, and with Covid-19 originating, like SARS and AIDS before it, from human encroachment in to natural habitats, it’s an unavoidable truth that we are connected, not only to each other, but to the natural world. The way that we steward it has a real impact on everyone.

I’ve written before about the joy of our shared space in the field below Creedy View in Sandford, how it’s been somewhere walkers have spontaneously congregated, how the sun has drawn people out from their isolation to stand and chat with a neighbour. Often the hedges are alive with chattering sparrows and starlings, youngsters play out, dogs run, and, once we are all in our beds and the sky grows dark, the hedgehogs, bats and badgers come out to forage.

There is a proposed extension to local development Creedy View which threatens the future of this shared space and the richness and diversity of the wildlife that shares it with us.

The ecological survey on the site is available to read on the Mid Devon planning portal.

From it I learned the following:

‘At least nine species of bat have been recorded over the site, including barbastelle, greater horseshoe and lesser horseshoe bat, which are all Annex II (Habitats Directive 1992) species. Development of the site could have an adverse impact on foraging and commuting bats, i.e.,from direct loss of foraging habitat and disturbance of retained habitats from increased lighting.’ (Bats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended).‘Given the diversity of bat species and the presence of rarer species, the site is considered of Regional value to bats (Wray et al., 2010).’

‘The site is considered to support a ‘good’ population of slow worms, which would be at risk of killing and injury through site clearance.’ (Common reptiles, such as slow worm …are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) against killing and injury and are species of principle importance under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC Act, 2006).

‘The clearance of the development areas and removal of the stone ha-ha fence could potentially result in the killing or injury of common amphibians.’

‘Clearance of the site could result in the killing or injury of hedgehogs (if present) and result in a minor loss of potential foraging habitat’ (Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is a species of principle importance under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC Act, 2006).

Of course people have to live somewhere, and as I’ve said before, which house didn’t depend upon the loss of natural habitat? However, the proposal as it is, is in direct conflict with the Local Plan and in contravention of Mid Devon’s own strategy for sustainability. As far as I can see, it fails to make provision for affordable housing, housing for local people, or specify how local infrastructure will cope with a development that is of urban, rather than rural, density. It strikes me that in its current form the development is for the financial benefit of a few individuals and to the mutual cost of all of us and the environment to which we’re bound.

It’s so easy to feel disheartened and that we don’t have a voice, but we do. If you’d like to object to the planning proposal in its current form, and speak up for nature, now is the time.

To join a mailing list to keep up to date with news on the application, information on how to make an objection and plans for a public meeting email owlyhowly@hotmail.com

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