Foldgate Lane. Rocks Green. Fishmore Quarry. Just three of the development sites where trees, hedges and scrubland have been the victims of recent work as development in Ludlow accelerates. There is a lot of anger around Ludlow and Ludford. Why are we losing so much biodiversity? Where have things gone wrong?
The primary fault lies in the planning system. It assumes that the destruction caused by bulldozing and chain saws can be replaced by planting schemes. The system doesn’t understand that biodiversity takes decades to emerge. And that it happens randomly. Biodiversity is a real scruff and that is why biodiversity works. It is the bugs and beasties as well as the tatty shrubs, along with the good looking trees that keep our world healthy. Most biodiversity is not protected in our planning system and many planning decisions seem blind to the destruction being caused.
We must give far more respect and importance to biodiversity when we decide planning applications.
It has not been a good couple of years in Ludlow for trees or for all the shrubbery and untidiness where much of the stuff of life lives.
Residents at Rocks Green are angry about the loss of trees for the Sainsbury’s development. I agree. The development is too large for the space and its 1980s design style means that all space is given over to car parking at the expense of greenery. The plans were approved even though Shropshire Council officers doubted the trees in the planting scheme would survive. It will be a minimalist, manicured barely, green scheme. Tokenism greenery. Sainsbury’s is introducing itself to our town by creating a biodiversity desert.
I opposed a supermarket at Rocks Green, the site is better suited to a convenience store. After it was approved in principle, I opposed the landscaping scheme which Shropshire Council’s tree team said was inadequate. But I proved to be almost a lone voice among councillors. The Southern Planning Committee rubber stamped the final plans. That is why trees have been felled at Rocks Green.
Last year, we got angry about the mass felling of trees alongside the A49 Foldgate Lane housing development. No one knew the extent of the destruction when the site plans were approved on appeal. But once the application was granted, the subsequent applications for the felling were permitted through technical changes to the original planning application. It is possible, just possible, that the appeal would have been rejected if the extent of environment destruction had been known.
Over the last few days, we have seen the destruction of one of Ludlow’s most important urban wildlife corridors. The developer will replant the cliff face on the east side of Fishmore Quarry but it will be many years before bugs, beasties, small mammals and all the stuff of biodiversity feel at home.
Fishmore Quarry has proved to be a repeat of Foldgate Lane. We had no clue when the outline application for 74 homes was submitted in 2016 that the development would lead to the brutal clearance of most of the quarry face that has occurred in the last few days.
Biodiversity and landscape protection are nearly always second place to bricks, mortar and tarmac in planning considerations. Sometimes that means that they are below the radar. Protection of the natural environment should be among the first considerations when a planning application is assessed. Developers need to be told that if they don’t put biodiversity, along with climate change, to the forefront of their applications, they will not get permission to develop. But we are far from achieving that in Shropshire or nationally.
Instead, we get replanting schemes. These are only ever second best. Schemes tend to be “managed”, often over managed, which is rarely good for biodiversity. Mowing. Trimming. Keeping things looking good for a photo. That’s does not create a rich biodiverse landscape.
We must change our entire approach to planning and ensure the environment and biodiversity is at the forefront.
To move things forward, I have asked Shropshire Council’s Place Overview Committee to look at the council’s role in protecting and promoting biodiversity.
The committee is due to discuss it’s workplan shortly, including whether a review can go ahead and what its terms of reference will be. I have sent the following briefing note but it will be down the councillors elected in May to decide whether to go forward with the review. The wording below may be adopted, modified or it might not go ahead at all.
Place Overview Biodiversity
Shropshire Council is a major employer, land owner and is the county highways authority. With our increased understanding of the threats to biodiversity, our commitment to become a carbon neutral council by 2030 and our wish to make Shropshire a green county valued by residents, businesses and visitors alike, it is timely to review how our council supports biodiversity across all its functions and areas of influence.
The review might include in its remit:
- The planning system’s role in preserving and promoting biodiversity, with the aim of achieving a significant net biodiversity gain
- The capability of highways to allow verges to grow wilder where it does not compromise safety
- The opportunities for increasing biodiversity and rewilding on council owned land
- The council’s communications and relationships with others that can promote biodiversity
- Support for children to learn about biodiversity in schools and other contexts such as visitor centres.