Newt-counting

It is now two years since the Friends of Southwick Country Park took issue with Wiltshire’s Housing Site Allocation Plan. Despite our best efforts the sites surrounding the park and Lambrok Stream, at Church Lane (H2.4), Upper Studley (H2.5) and Southwick Court (H2.6) were selected, last year, for future development.

OS map showing WHSAP sites around the park.

So we turned our attention to planning applications. Our object was to use current legislation to limit the ecological damage that these sites might suffer, and to limit the damage their development could cause to the wider environment, including both the park and Lambrok Stream. The Lambrok, from its origins in the farmland west of Southwick to its confluence with the River Biss, and including the 16th Century moat at Southwick Court, is home to protected species: water voles, otters, scarce chaser dragonflies, bullheads, opposite leaved pondweed. The Lambrok’s biota is a precious resource that we are working hard to protect.

[1] Otter family [2] Opposite leaved pondweed

All our efforts have been designated newt counting by our Prime Minister. Standing at a lectern with BUILD BUILD BUILD painted across its front, he has called our concerns for Britain’s damaged ecosystems and failing biodiversity a massive drag on the productivity and prosperity of the country. This does not bode well for our park. We are not sure it bodes well for anybody; to hand the immediate future of our environment (and our economy) over to the notably corrupt building industry seems questionable.

[3] Water vole [4] Scarce chaser

Brexit appears to be releasing the government, and presumably Wiltshire Council, from the need to meet EU environmental standards. The Environment Bill put forward in January of this year, proposing ‘to deliver the government’s manifesto commitment to delivering the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth’ has been becalmed in Parliament’s coronavirus lockdown since March and seems unlikely to meet its target of enactment by 2021. Mr Johnson’s speech suggests that his governments’ plan to ‘create […] legally-binding environmental improvement targets’ might well be up for review soon.

Let’s treat this as a heads-up. Everything has changed. The country is in economic turmoil and it looks as if one of our government’s first responses is going to be to sacrifice yet more of our momentarily unprotected ecosystems, despite our being already among the most nature-depleted countries in the world. According to the RSPB we rank 189 among 218 countries, for Biodiversity Intactness.

This coronavirus, horrible as some of its consequences have been, has provided us with the time to think and many of us have relaxed into the hiatus; we have turned inwards, focusing our attention on family and home. But this moment, made of crisis, Brexit, and a new government only too happy to change direction, is one of peril for our environment. We need to be alert; there are dangers other than Covid-19 out there.

Stay safe.


More about the development planned for the green space between Trowbridge and Southwick:

7 thoughts on “Newt-counting

    1. Most of the EU environmental legislation still applies and will until the end of the transition period on Dec 31st 2020. I assume the Environment Bill is supposed to step into the empty shoes and take over. The bill has been touted as New and Improved but Mr Johnson’s oddly unconvincing version of FDR’s New Deal suggests that it might not have as much clout as we thought it would.

  1. In answer to queries regarding the Bowyer’s site, I understand it is on hold due to the lack of available school places for a development of this size.

    Most large developments include a school, I believe the Bowyer’s development does not and the delay of the huge Ashton Park development in West Ashton ( which includes a Primary and a Secondary school) due to the Bat Mitigation Strategy, probably means there will now be an unexpected reduction in available school places.

    This would seem to make sense and Wiltshire Council are probably not in a position to build a large new school themselves, they usually rely on developers to build schools as part of the planning agreement.

  2. I expect that there is somebody in Downing Street busy knitting all sorts of loopholes into the Environment Bill. I would hate to see all the work that FoSCP has put into protecting our green spaces just vanish into a loophole.

  3. ME too! We must be vigilant and try to keep abreast of new developments. We can write to our MP Andrew Murrison of our concerns, I have done so a couple of times recently and he always writes a detailed reply, although no definite future commitments.

    At present he is leading a petition against plans for a greatly enlarged Hill’s incinerator in Westbury. This would also greatly increase the HGV traffic through Southwick and possibly past the Country Park, with all the additional air pollution this may bring.

    I guess we won’t really know how leaving the EU will change our regulations until it actually happens!

    1. Yes, while the world is focused on the coronavirus, all kinds of things are sliding in under the wire. We need to be very careful about the legislative structure of the post Brexit UK.

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