WRINGTON PARISH COUNCIL
The John Locke Room, Silver Street, Wrington BS40 5QE
Tel 01934 863984
Development Control Department
Request for EIA Screening Opinion - Land at Brockley Wood
Wrington Parish Council has considered the information submitted by New Earth Solutions Ltd alongside the request for a screening opinion on land in Brockley Wood, Wrington Parish, and recommends that a full Environmental Impact Assessment is required before a proposal for development is given further consideration.
We understand that the current regulations relating to the requirement for formal EIAs and the related screening process became effective 14 March 1999, arising from EU Directive 97/11/EC. Our reading of Circular 02/99 and the related EIA Regulations indicates that the site should be considered as a ‘Sensitive Area’ as defined under Schedule 2 of the Regulations, thus necessitating a full EIA for any potential development on this site.
The following issues are relevant to this argument and will need to be addressed in any EIA:
1. Our view is that the site is sensitive because of its Green Belt designation, its location within the Forest of Avon and the undisturbed wooded landscape of the Brockley Combe/Cleeve Hill/Goblin Combe Wildlife Site (ancient semi-natural broad-leaved woodland), the underlying protected aquifer and, particularly, the North Somerset & Mendips Hills Bats Special Area of Conservation (cSAC). These material issues appear to have been overlooked in the developer's submission, as has the influence of the nearby Goblin Combe SSSI.
2. It is relevant that a retrospective application to legitimise airport related car parking on the site was refused for reasons including 'inappropriate development in the Green Belt' and a 'significant hazard to traffic' due to 'the access to the classified highway, due to the limited visibility, the vertical alignment of the road and the speed of traffic', ref. planning application 05/P/1475/F. It is self-evident that these issues remain in place and would need to be explored in depth as no comprehensive traffic report has been presented for review.
3. We are particularly concerned about traffic impacts on Brockley Combe Road and Downside Road, where both HGV and car traffic creates difficulties at current flows. The applicant forecasts that the facility would generate over 17,000 HGV movements per annum while suggesting that this is not significant, 'particularly given the good links to the principal highway network'. Links to the north and east could never be described as good. Bearing this in mind, and the reasons for the decision on 05/P1475/F and the ready
availability of this background information, our conclusion is that the applicant cannot have thoroughly researched the issues relating to this site.
4. The Decision Notice commented that parking of cars on the site was felt to be 'harmful to the openness of the Green Belt and conflicts with the purposes of including land in Green Belts'. A more significant physical development, such as that suggested, must have a similar or greater impact. Clearly, the site is not designated for any form of development in the Development Plan and is washed over by several RLP designations, facts that appear to have been ignored by the applicant. Further points to note are that the 'illustrative site layout' drawing suggests that the facility requires more space than the currently felled area and, notably, the design, scale and layout of the similar 50,000tpa facility depicted in the proposal documentation do not appear to be appropriate for this location.
5. The site concerned is not only located within the Forest of Avon but was until recently planted with trees. Permission for felling these trees was given by the Forestry Commission but on condition that the site should be replanted or allowed to regenerate naturally as broad-leaved woodland. The land is not 'fallow', as the applicant suggests, but awaiting replanting. The Commission has indicated that it intends to pursue the site owner to enforce the felling licence conditions, specifically replanting. See Forestry Commission (Rob Spence) letter to NSC, 18 July 2005.
Kevin Carlton, NSC Landscape Officer, also recommended replanting of trees on this site (consultation response, 22 July 2005).
6. The site is located above a designated and environmentally sensitive aquifer, the Chelvey Source Protection Zone. An assessment is required of the potential impacts of drainage from the proposed operations and its effect on this groundwater source, together with a risk analysis related to plant/equipment failure. This assessment should also consider the impacts of drainage on the adjacent woodland. Significantly, questions should be asked about the potential environmental impact resulting from failure of the balancing lagoon.
7. Alongside drainage, a report is required on the potential for nuisance caused by airborne emissions both in the course of normal operations and in the event of plant failure. We note the reference to an 'enclosed' system, although this is just one word on the screening opinion request and no guarantee of any level of emissions control. There have been recent press reports of complaints about gaseous emissions and odours from what appears to be a similar composting facility.
8. In addition to Kevin Carlton, Pauline Homer, then NSC's Ecologist, also supported the proposal to replant with broadleaved trees (consultation response, 20 July 2005). At the same time Ms Homer emphasised the importance of the woodland for wildlife, commenting that the use for car parking had affected 'the integrity of the woodland for wildlife' while emphasising the potentially negative impacts of development-related pollution. Of course, this related to cars at that time. It seems clear that there is the potential for disturbance arising from emissions, noise, lighting, traffic and general site operations, all of these needing to be assessed in some detail.
9. Along with all other local authorities, NSC now has a duty under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC) relating to the conservation of biodiversity. Development on this site would certainly result in a loss of biodiversity. In this respect, the fullest possible assessment is required of the potential impact on the biodiversity in and around this woodland site. Pauline Homer highlighted reports of the presence of greater horseshoe bats adjacent to the site and more generally in this central area of the woodland. At the time, she stated; 'it is clear that the foraging of the bats that use this woodland will be affected'. It is worth emphasising that these are greater horseshoe bats, an EU protected species which has its own 'Species action plan' in 'Action for Nature', NSC's Biodiversity Action Plan.
10. Greater horseshoe bats forage along the woodland fringe and in the woodland glades, feeding on airborne insects, with this habitat becoming increasingly important to this and other bat species as more and more local permanent pasture land nearby is converted to arable cropping. While accepting that the formal cSAC designations apply directly to the maternity roosts, including that at Brockley Hall nearby and in Kings Wood, Congresbury, the viability of this EU protected species is dependent on the closely associated foraging areas and the currently undisturbed flight corridors between the maternity and other roosts. Radio tracking of bats from Brockley Hall has demonstrated how this species uses the local landscape habitat. New Earth Solutions Ltd seems to be unaware of the greater horseshoe bat, the cSAC or the relevance of the EU Habitats Directive.
11. Although the impact on bats is potentially crucial, an assessment of the impacts on other woodland flora and fauna species should also be required, especially birds. It is known that the woodland here is home to owls and other threatened bird species. The affects on these of industrial activity, emissions, noise and, particularly, lighting must be fully researched.
12. We are also extremely concerned about the potential threat of fires arising from this site. If, as is forecast, future summers are to be hotter and dryer as a consequence of the effects of climate change, then it seems that what would be a form of industrial development in the centre of the woodland must bring with it a significantly increased risk of fire. Recent reports of loss of life due to woodland fires in Greece and the USA have brought this issue to mind. The risks to property and residents need to be thoroughly researched, especially as composting is an inherently heat-generating process.
In conclusion, following the approach taken by New Earth Solutions Ltd and as indicated earlier, our view is that this is a Schedule 2 development and clearly located within a 'Sensitive Area'. Please refer to para 5.3.1 in the applicant's submission and the first bullet point where it states that Sensitive Areas include 'SSSIs and their consultation areas under nature conservation orders and international conservation sites'. Simple research would have brought this into focus. The flow chart then asks 'if it (the development) is likely to have significant effects on the environment'? We don't know, although it is highly probable. That's why an EIA is required.
Clerk, Wrington Parish Council