by David Feather
Planning Application PL/2021/03655
Squirrels are not the only things wanting to nibble away in Southwick Country Park Local Nature Reserve. Wiltshire Council want to do so, or at least the Education Department of the Council wants to.
It has made a Planning Application (PL/2021/03655) to build a classroom in the Hope Nature Centre compound, but right next to the boundary fence, close to the woodland between Frome Road and the Centre access drive. The Friends of Southwick have been concerned over many years that Wiltshire Council might want to build things in the park as a very convenient site next to Trowbridge. When the Park was designated a Local Nature Reserve, we naively thought that this would safeguard the park as a haven of peace and tranquillity for humans and wildlife. We now realise that we were misled. We fear that this application may be the tip of the iceberg.
Snakes head fritillaries, a UK BAP priority species, growing on the edge of Simpson’s Copse where it is proposed the heavy vehicles are parked during construction.
This plan might seem a minor thing, but it could well be a precedent. If the Council needed a new school site for all the housing proposed in the vicinity of the Country Park, who knows what might be suggested next ?
We consider that the woodland adjacent to the application site is a special area, in that it is being very lightly managed to leave the wildlife as undisturbed as possible. Dead trees are not being removed but allowed to decompose naturally. All the noise and activity during the construction of the building will have an effect that has not been evaluated in the application. Bats and birds are discussed but there is a whole world of other creatures that need to be considered.
Two of the species of rare bats detected in Simpson’s Copse, adjacent to the proposed building:  Bechstein’s bat, a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework, a European Protected Species under Annex IV of the European Habitats Directive, listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species;  lesser horseshoe bat, a priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework, a European Protected Species under Annex IV of the European Habitats Directive.
The application involves using 6 of the surfaced parking spaces in front of the Hope Centre. This means more parking on the grass. Do visitors to the nature reserve really want to see a sea of cars all over Simpson’s Field (The one in front of the Hope Centre), when they expect just to see greenery? You have not been given the opportunity of commenting on the extension to the car parking. Are you happy about this?
If you care about the future of The Southwick Country Park Local Nature Reserve then please let the Wiltshire planners know your views. To see the application details go to Planning Application: PL/2021/03655 (wiltshire.gov.uk) . You have until August 12th to register your concern.
Header image taken in the reserve by Simon Knight
Since The Hope Nature Centre merged with Larkhill (?) there have been many changes to the Centre more play equipment, work done in the park, the cafe has expanded into the outside area with more facilities for play for toddlers. It is still a great investment for the future of young adults with some difficulties to enable them to work and cope with life after school.
But it was only a matter of time before they expanded in a new way with a classroom, maybe they are expecting school visits, what is the purpose of the classroom and for whom, this may start bringing in mini buses and large coaches . What is the development plan for the future? Are they going down the route of Avon Valley Adventure Park and other parks? Becoming more commercial inviting people from afar? The parking at times is chaotic has been out on the road. Serious thought needs to go into this peaceful green vibrant with wildlife area before it gets swallowed up.
It has been very difficult to find out what Fairfield College is planning for the Hope Nature Centre; it’s hard not to think of the process as secretive. A great deal of money seems to have been spent on modifications with small regard for their effect on the nature reserve, its wildlife, its users and its capacity to park HNC customers’ cars. We have a great deal of respect for the work done at HNC for youngsters with special needs but are beginning to feel that they have little respect for the work we do..
The centres boundary comes right to the road between the Parks car park and the Farmhouse Inn. If they made their own entrance and car park there it would solve a lot of the problems.
I posted my concerns about this Planning Application on the Historic Southwick site (it is no longer just Historic) and quoted some of your Nibble, Nibble! post. So far comments see this situation only from the Hope Centre’s view point. Would the friendsofscp like to add your concerns from the Nature Reserve’s point of view!