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