ADD UPDATE, 30 April 2017: This recording of BBC Radio Solent’s interview with TV naturalist Chris Packham and the Woodland Trust’s Chris Hickman on 20 April is a MUST LISTEN for anyone living in, or close to, Bishopstoke, Fair Oak, Upham, Owslebury, Allbrook, Colden Common, Chandler’s Ford, Highbridge, Brambridge, Twyford or Otterbourne. To pique your interest, here are some excerpts:
“Don’t trash an area of international importance,” that’s the message from Chris Packham to Eastleigh Borough Council who want to build a new bypass and 6,000 houses near ancient woodlands and over the River Itchen (options B and C of its emerging Local Plan).
Packham tells BBC Radio Solent’s Jo Palmer: “When you are fortunate enough to be operating in a borough where this is such significant ecological value then you certainly don’t trash that. Think again. Think more carefully. Don’t think about yourselves. Think about your grandchildren who might be living in that borough…”
Asked about the planned development’s impact on the area’s ancient woodland, Packham replies: “There is a plethora of reasons why you don’t have to cut a tree down to have an impact on woodland and of course the same goes exactly for the waterways.”
The Woodland Trust’s Chris Hickman agrees with Packham, adding: “We have a real problem because [this proposed development] will impact two woods that we own… We campaign to protect ancient woodland across the country… but it is quite rare that [a development] impacts on two woods which we own – so clearly it’s a concern to us.”
Hickman says that the proposed new road “will go right through the middle of the two woods we own… There is about 100-150 metre gap between these two woods and you can imagine if it’s a bypass it’s not going to be a small road so you can imagine the width of that road is likely to be quite substantial. As Chris is saying, it’s not just necessarily about cutting trees down… Ancient woods have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years; they’ll have been undisturbed so to suddenly have a bypass…and development next to them… is clearly going to be very hard for the wildlife.”
He goes on: “When there is development that threatens ancient wood we always talk about having a buffer, but it’s important that that buffer is of significant distance to keep the woods as minimally impacted as possible – so clearly the bypass going in between two woods where there is only 100-150 metres distance at the moment is going to be quite tricky…
“The government [recently] published a white paper on housing… [in which it] recognised the value of ancient woodland, so we are calling now for government to act on that, to ensure ancient woodland does have better protection… so that developments like this can’t impact on ancient woodland.”
Asked for a message for Eastleigh Borough Council, Hickman says: “Clearly there is need to build houses across the country but it shouldn’t be at the cost of what is an irreplaceable habitat that needs to be protected… We need to look after the wildlife for the people and future generations that use the woods.”
Eastleigh Borough Council were asked onto the programme but said they were unavailable.
To listen to the recording, click here.