1. The planning application is still undetermined and is valid through the East Suffolk Planning website using planning reference: DC/18/0745/FUL | Construction of a new chapel on land formerly in agricultural use
2. The "Planning Report" states that no ecological assessment has been made. The full text of section 10.3 of the planning report reads:
No ecological assessment or survey has been made. The site lies in an area which was formerly arable land with no evidence of a more intensive use. It is currently newly planted with trees which form a first phase of the anticipated development. There is a natural pond under construction to the south of the site which also forms part of the wider phased development. The pond is not yet colonised and will be planted through the winter and into the next spring. One may reasonably expect that it will form a habitat after the construction of the Chapel and that no risk to ecology will yet have arisen. The planted area, similarly, is in its early stages and grass is regularly mowed between and around the trees. The prospect is for this environment to provide rich and diverse ecology following the completion of the chapel and the onward growth of the pond and trees. There is a fishpond at Wynney’s farm some 180 meters from the site, but this is populated with ducks and is a poor habitat for Great Crested Newts. (GCN)
There is a recently withdrawn planning application for a back land development at to the rear of Osier house and Reap House off the Saxtead Road to the east of Wynneys Hall, which included an ecological survey and mitigation carried out between 2014 and 2016. This recorded a population of GCN at the Chestnuts and Little Crimbles some 300 meters from the Chapel site. We understand from the report that in conjunction with the housing development mitigation measures have already been taken for this population which appears to be self-contained within that locality, with hibernating sites in the adjacent properties and woodland. We do not expect the population to migrate to the Chapel site across the Wynneys Hall land which, by its present nature, offers little cover.
There is a heavily shaded and overgrown field pond by some 80 meters from the site which, at the time of inspection was bone dry (December2017) . A desk top study assessment using the Amphibian and reptile groups of the UK advice note 5 (2010) gives an estimated score of less than 5 indicating poor suitability for GCN.
1This indicates that there is no risk or need for an ecological report for the chapel site. In this regard we also note that various applications at Wynneys Hall for a Coach House (2016), Orangery (2016) and Pool House (2015) were all granted without the need for an ecological report.
There are many problems with this section of the report and alarm bells would be ringing for any ecological consultant with even the most basic knowledge of surveying for GCN and providing effective mitigation strategies.
Firstly, 'former' arable use indicates a lack of management which can create very good habitat for GCN and the presence of nearby ponds with GCN means that an ecological assessment should be regarded as absolutely essential.
3. These shortcomings have been highlighted in consultation responses from a local ecological consultancy employed by a local resident and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. The ecologist concerned also undertook the previous ecology surveys referred to in the Planning Report - concluding that the local area supported a medium population of GCN, but that the surveys are now out of date. Importantly, the report from The Landscape Partnership states that "...it may be appropriate to defer making a decision on this application until such time as a survey can take place".
So.... to summarise. The application has not been determined and thus there is time for it to be resolved, or deferred/withdrawn. The newts have not scuppered Ed's plans, but a lack of understanding of newt survey requirements for planning purposes and the implications for planning applications has undermined the proposed scheme. There is still time to sort it out!
March is a month of transition in the bird world and this makes it a fascinating time to undertake bird surveys. This morning I was up well before dawn to get to a site to start a breeding bird survey. At first light the birds are active and vocal and this is the best time of day to see what is about - the dawn chorus is a perfect description!
In March, however, we have yet to receive the influx of summer migrants, although a few pioneer records of early arrivals are being logged across the country. Birds such as the willow warbler, swallow and cuckoo are still a few weeks away and for the most part, the breeding activity is focuses on our resident species. This morning, there was a flurry of male dunnocks, robins, great tits and blue tits trying to impress potential mates, generally trying to establish territories and in some cases start nest building.
Our winter migrants are still here and I was pleased to come across a good sized flock of field fare: another few weeks and they will be gone.
Another highlight was a few flocks of goldfinches busily feasting on teasel heads.... Always a joy to behold.
The bird world has been excited at the prospect of a rare visit from a snowy owl this weekend. Unable to head over to the coast to see it at the weekend, it appears to have moved on and has not been seen for a day or two..... In birding circles this makes me a dipper!
The snowy owl spent a couple of says at the excellent North Norfolk reserves of RSPB Titchwell and Snettisham. These are both reserves I spent many happy months over 20 yrs ago as a volunteer warden - acting as a guide in the shop and hides, undertaking bird counts and carrying out practical management work. It is always good to get back to visit and seeing many photos of the snowy owl at these reserves has reminded me a visit is needed - even without a snowy owl it will be worth the trip.
This is intended to host my articles on ecology, news about what I am up to, and general musings or ramblings about things that concern me....