A planning application is imminent and so far, North Somerset Council has refused to request that any application be accompanied by an Environment Impact Assessment, despite Government guidance for local authorities recommending they do this assessment where a development may be close to environmentally sensitive land.
We are extremely disappointed in the council’s decision, which seems to ignore best practice and overlook the value of Weston Big Wood and the landscape of the Gordano Valley. Weston Big Wood is one of the most wildlife-rich woodlands in the area and a much-loved nature reserve providing habitat for threatened species like dormice, tawny owls and hedgehogs. Ancient woodlands like this have developed over centuries and are now amongst the most fragile and rare of all landscapes in the country. Once damaged they cannot be restored.
Weston Big Wood also plays a vital role in connecting areas of open grassland, other woodlands and wetland moors in the Gordano Valley, allowing wildlife to move and thrive across this landscape. Gordano Valley is one of the most important areas for wildlife in the West of England, with wetland moors that have been designated as a National Nature Reserve – described by Natural England in its nature reserves strategy publication, as the crown jewels of England’s natural heritage. With 56% of our species in decline and 15% in danger of disappearing completely, we need to do everything we can to protect wildlife and allow it to thrive in the future. Building 125 homes right next door to this beautiful ancient woodland in the Gordano Valley will damage wildlife and destroy a rich habitat.
Avon Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Ian Barrett said “We are working with local councils to ensure that the housing needed in our area can be built in ways that enhance rather than damage the natural environment. Clearly, not all locations are suitable for development and this is the wrong proposal in the wrong place. Weston Big Wood and the Gordano Valley are vital areas for our region’s wildlife and we are calling on North Somerset Council to refuse proposals to develop this land.”
We firmly believe the site being considered is inappropriate for development and have been in touch with North Somerset Council to make this point. There is ample evidence, good practice and guidance for local authorities, planners and developers on building in harmony with nature to provide greener, inspirational homes and communities, which also help reverse decades of wildlife and habitat decline. We urge North Somerset Council to find more appropriate locations for development and use these principles to ensure nature and wildlife are protected throughout North Somerset.