For over 40 years the Newburn Sidings had been a wildlife habitat. It remained undisturbed until instructions were given by the Housing and Communities Agencies (HCA) to strip acres of land of flora and fauna. This was done on the basis of exploring the land for the possibility of building “Affordable Housing” on a site which was found twice before as not being viable. This unnecessary removal of habitat went far beyond the agreed permissions and understanding of council officers.
Since the land strip HCA has ordered a further five further strips of land five metres wide to be cleared from the railway embankment. This contains five Badger setts and is home to Reptiles, Deer and Owls. It is also now nesting season and Tree felling and coppicing normally stops in this period to avoid disturbing nesting birds for low or high nesting. It is an offence under the Town & Countryside act to disturb or destroy nests in the nesting season.
In spite of HCA hiring ecologists to carry out this work there seems no credible reason for it to carry on. This set against a background that HCA are said to have no money to develop such an expensive site. Because of potential high costs to the tax payer I have sought intervention from the local MP and would seek a public enquiry if Tax Payers money is wasted much further on such an expensive scheme.
I support the development of brownfield sites for Housing but not at any cost. Even if the site was viable I would not support the destruction of a habitat that can’t possibly be built on. Local residents are already disgusted by the previous actions of HCA and want to see no further destructive clearance of local habitat. They are rightly concerned about the potential high costs and complications associated with the site development and the impact it might have on the nearby flood plain.
The road access costs would be a minimum of £1 million to over £1.5 million and that is just to get into the site. It is not even clear if Planning or Highways would give permission to such a scheme. Few would understand building a road on a flood plain and cutting through a community forest. Both site access proposals are not practical and would not get the support of ward councillors or local residents. The exploration impact has already been devastating and the potential impact on wildlife and the over-stretched infrastructure could be worse.
Whilst HCA has a mandate to build houses on brown field sites their proposals make no sense for this this site. Their intention to carry out further work out in the nesting season is not only wrong and unlawful it provides no confidence that HCA are conscious of the impact they are having and could have. If HCA have accepted it is a difficult site to develop and they have said they are working to find a suitable way forward they can start by working with the council to develop an alternative brown field site. I know of two which I am sure could be the basis of a better way forward.