West Brandon road and housing

Tagged with: Casework status: Open Casework type: Construction Site designations: SPA Site designations: SSSI
Woodlark Lullula arborea back view

Overview

Rare and vulnerable birds of the Brecks are under threat from development in one of the UK's most unique and wildlife rich landscapes.

The Brecks, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border is a unique and wildlife-rich landscape, boasting nearly 13,000 species and 28 per cent of the UK's rarest plants and animals.

In May 2015 a planning application was submitted for the construction of a road and up to 1,650 homes on land immediately adjacent to a site supporting stone-curlew, woodlark and nightjar. Their importance has been recognised by the designation of the Breckland Special Protection Area (SPA), a European designated site created for their protection and conservation.

All three species are particularly vulnerable to disturbance by human activity, and the proposed development falls entirely within the 'stone-curlew buffer zone' set out in local planning policy which extends for 1500m around the Breckland SPA, and is designed specifically to protect nesting stone curlews from such disturbance.

If allowed to proceed, it is predicted the construction of the West Brandon housing development and relief road would result in the loss from the area of more than 1 per cent of the entire UK breeding population of the stone-curlew.

We are objecting to this development to prevent irreversible damage to the Breckland SPA and its populations of stone-curlew, woodlark, and nightjar.

  • Our key points in opposing the development are:
  • It would result in irreversible damage to a statutory European protected area and the species for which it is designated.

The local councils have identified suitable alternative sites in the local area where houses could be built without impacting at all on species of the Breckland SPA.

 

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

The unusual geology and nutrient poor soils of the Brecks have left the area with a particularly rich natural and cultural heritage.

  • Nearly 13,000 species have been recorded in the Brecks.
  • The Brecks is home to plants that are extremely rare or not found at all elsewhere in the UK, such as fingered speedwell and Breckland thyme.
  • 28 per cent of the UK’s rarest species are found in the Brecks.

With its rare grass heathland, wildlife-rich farmland, and lowland forest habitats, the Brecks is home to 60 per cent of the UK's population of the amber-listed stone-curlew, 25 per cent of the amber-listed woodlark and 10 per cent of the red-listed nightjar.

All three species were once much more widespread in the countryside, but like so many others they have declined significantly due to habitat loss and degradation and in the UK are now found in only a handful of places.

The UK stone-curlew population reached its lowest level in 1985, when there were around 160 pairs in the whole country. Local landowners and farmers in the Brecks have worked with conservationists for many years to try to reverse this decline. In 2006, the creation of the Breckland Special Protection Area for stone-curlews under the EU Birds Directive was a significant boost to these efforts. Not only did it increase protection for the birds' very specialist breeding habitat, it also helped farmers to access agri-environment funds for taking steps to help stone-curlews on their land, significantly benefiting the local farming community at the same time as helping to increase the breeding population in the Brecks to 250 pairs in 2012.

Despite this recent improvement, there are still currently as few as 350 pairs of stone-curlew breeding in the whole of the UK. The conservation status of woodlark and nightjar as UK breeding birds is similarly insecure, having suffered historic declines due to loss of habitat.

If we fail to safeguard these rare and vulnerable birds in one of their last strongholds, their future will look all the more precarious.

Brandon Community Union, a local campaign group opposing this proposed development, says this about the need to save the special wildlife of the Breckland SPA: “We need to protect and conserve these [species] for future generations to enjoy and cherish. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.” 

How you can help

We have submitted detailed comments opposing the granting of permission for the proposed development . 

You can help prevent this harmful and unnecessary development before it does irreversible damage to the rare habitats and species of the Brecks by writing to the local planning authority (LPA) expressing your concerns about the proposed West Brandon road and housing development.

The more individuals, businesses and organisations that oppose the planning application, the stronger the case for saving the site will be.

Deadline for commenting

The planning application is currently at the public consultation stage and comments on the application can be submitted to while a decision is pending. It is likely that a decision will not be made until October, but the sooner you submit your comments, the more likely it is that the planning officers will have time to consider them.

Help composing your comments

Please do use the information in these pages and associated documents to help you compile your comments. Remember the planning officers receive a large number of responses to the many planning applications they have to process, so:

  • Keep comments succinct
  • Use bullet points to highlight your key concerns
  • Make your comments individual to you

How to submit comments

The planning application falls into the jurisdiction of two local planning authorities - Breckland Council and Forest Heath District Council.

Top tip: If you submit your comment online use a word processing program to compose your comments first and copy and paste into the online form to submit.

Breckland 

To view the planning application and submit your comment to the Breckland Council using the online planning portal:

1) Search for planning application Reference 3PL/2015/0655/O

2) Click the 'Enter comment' button

Alternatively, write to:

Breckland Council

Elizabeth House

Walpole Loke

Dereham

NR19 1EE

Forest Heath

View the planning application (Ref: DC/15/1072/OUT) on the West Suffolk council's website

Click the 'Comments' to submit your comments. 

N.B. you will need to login or register to make a comment

Alternatively, write to: 

Forest Heath District Council

The Brandon Centre

Bury Road

Brandon

Suffolk 

IP27 0BQ

 Stone curlew Burhinus oedicnemus, at autumn roost, Normanton Down RSPB reserve.

Our position

We are opposed to the proposed West Brandon housing development and road and have submitted a detailed and evidenced representation to the planning authority urging them to refuse the applicant planning permission.

Our primary reason for opposing this development is the hugely damaging and irreversible impact it would have on stone-curlew, woodlark and nightjar - rare and vulnerable species that live in one of the country's most important wildlife protected areas, recognised at European level.

Foremost among these is the stone-curlew, as the proposed development lies entirely within the buffer zone around the Breckland SPA included in local planning policy precisely to avoid the kind of damaging activity which would impact negatively on the Brecks' nationally important breeding population of these birds.

No less significant would be the impact on woodlark and nightjar, with the applicant themselves predicting damage to prime SPA and SSSI habitat for these species if the development goes ahead.

Meeting housing needs

We recognise the need to meet increasing demand for more and affordable housing in England and the RSPB works with local authorities around the country to make sure that where wildlife is affected, as much as possible is done to minimise and offset any negative impacts. The key to the success of this approach is "the right development in the right place".

The proposed location of this development on the land to west of Brandon is absolutely not the right place.

Forest Heath District Council, the planning authority for this proposal, has recently launched a public consultation on its strategic housing plan. This plan indicates that the council envisages a need for just 55 new houses in Brandon over the next few decades and has explicitly ruled out a major housing development west of Brandon because of its impacts on the SPA's birds.

There is no justifiable reason for building inside the buffer zone of the Breckland SPA, when Forest Heath District Council (FHDC) has itself identified suitable locations for housing elsewhere in the local area to meet housing needs without adversely impacting on the vulnerable species and habitats of this protected area of the Brecks.

We are not opposed to all development and objecting to a planning application is not something we do lightly, but the damaging consequences this development would have for the Breckland SPA and the species it is designed to protect and conserve demand intervention to save them.

Timeline

  • October 2015
    Breckland Council have indicated that a decision will be made on the West Brandon application by 1 September 2015, but the date of any decision is likely to be pushed back into October at the earliest, and Breckland and Forest Heath District Councils are continuing to accept comments on the application. Please help us save the Brecks' stone-curlews and other rare wildlife from this development. 
  • June 2015
    A planning application validated by Breckland and Forest Heath District Councils opens for comment. Breckland (Norfolk) and Forest Heath (Suffolk) District Councils are likely to accept comments on the planning application up until the date of the planning committee hearing at which a decision will be made.
  • May 2015
    Talavera Estates Ltd submit planning application for up to 1,650 house and a 'relief road' to be built on land to the west of Brandon
  • December 2014
    Brandon residents and businesses receive a 'Regeneration Pack' that outlines a proposal by a group of private landowners to build a 1,600 + unit housing estate on land to the west of the town. At the time, the RSPB wrote to the agency carrying out this public consultation outlining our concerns with the proposal, but never received a reply.