Friday, 9 August 2013

Some Amazing Wildlife at Mile Bank Road

 Masses of Great Crested Newts at Mile Bank Road

 Looks like just a big old pile of rubbish, but it'll be full of amphibians like this toad.

 Great Crested Newts under these polystyrene tiles.

 Brown Hawker. The site is full of dragonflies feeding on the butterflies.

There's a proposal for a housing development on a brownfield site on Mile Bank Road, Whitchurch. The developers seem keen to get public feedback - a good sign - so I thought I'd go up to the site myself and see what was going on, wildlife-wise.

Although the place looks fairly grotty, with derelict buildings and stretches of open concrete flooring, it's actually teeming with animals. Straight away I found a huddle of ten Great Crested Newts, and a common toad under some iron sheeting. Insect-wise the place is full of butterflies due to the forty or so buddeleia bushes, and feeding on the butterflies was the most amazing range of dragonflies. There are three ponds/boggy areas that are great for all sorts of creatures. At the bottom of the site I found what could have been water vole feeding too - we do have historical records for this area.

So while it's great that developers are looking to use brownfield sites instead of greenfield, there may still be sensitive ecological conditions to be observed. The presence of legally protected species doesn't on its own mean a development will be blocked, but it does mean there will be strict rules that the builders have to adhere to. I'd be interested to see what the developer's ecological report shows up.

For myself I'd be keen specifically to know how the wet area for the newts is going to be incorporated into the new proposals, and how water drainage from the houses is going to be managed. I'd also hope to see the same number of buddeleia bushes restored in the final planting scheme, perhaps with the original bushes being offered to local gardeners if the alternative was to chuck them away. The pile of old rubbish also needs to be dismantled with extreme care as a digger going in and shifting the lot in one go will almost certainly kill the animals living underneath.

I've entered the newt record on a national database and written to both the developer's consultants and the council to let them know about the site's wildlife-value.

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