A Leicestershire meadow that is home to rare species of animals and plants could be cut in half by new housing development.
David Wilson Homes is looking to build 650 homes east of Welford Road in Wigston in the second phase of its Wigston Meadows development.
However, the local community has raised concerns about one aspect in particular of the plans that were presented to Oadby and Wigston Borough Council in January.
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The development would see a new road cut through the local wildlife site, known locally as Barn Pool Meadow. Local wildlife sites are designated natural areas that are rich in wildlife and provide corridors through which animals, birds, and insects can move.
The road and surrounding houses could create an “ecological island”, preventing migration to other areas.
A petition to save the site has been started by Gavin Gamble, an avowed wildlife activist, ecology student and gardening enthusiast, and has so far received 958 signatures.
Mr Gamble said that, among other species, the site is recognized as a breeding ground for a “nationally rare” type of bird, the tree sparrow, and is home to the only known colony of Myrmica schencki, a species ant, in the county. It also contains rare calcareous grasses.
Mr Gamble described the damage he believes could be caused to the habitat if the development is approved in his online blog, GJ Gamble.
He said: “They plan to build a main entrance road in the middle, dividing the site in half.
“I don’t think any mitigation or a management regime will reverse the horrendous damage the site will suffer.
“This makes Barn Pool Meadow an ecological island with no real means of safely dispersing or colonizing wildlife. It is simply devastating. “
Mr Gamble added that the site is known to have schools of badgers. Badgers are a protected species in England and it is illegal to destroy a burrow without a license from Natural England.
He said: “What is the point of a ‘protected species’ designation if in reality it means very little and can be browsed on a routine basis.”
David Wilson Homes said in his planning application that at least one of the complexes would be destroyed by the work, a second could be disrupted.
A company spokesperson told LeicestershireLive it is open to discussing ways to preserve natural habitats on the prairie.
He said: “A decision has yet to be made on our planning request for a second phase of houses at Wigston Meadows but, if successful, we plan to conduct a biodiversity management plan for the preservation of Barn Pool Meadow.
“This plan will be carefully crafted with input from our consultant ecologist to ensure prairie wildlife remains a top priority and we are open to discussions to consider the best interests of the site.
“Currently we only own the land south of the proposed access road and will be working on the hedges imminently, with maintenance also starting on the prairies at the optimum time next year.
“As the UK’s leading national builder of sustainable homes, we are committed to improving biodiversity in all of our developments and always try to give nature a home. “
Natural England currently classifies the prairie as being in “unfavorable condition” which means that permission is more likely to be granted.
Mr Gamble said he had previously had conversations with Oadby and Wigston’s council and the developers on how best to maintain the area, but nothing came of it.
Oadby and Wigston’s counsel have said they have a duty to remain neutral in the matter until a decision is made on the request.
David Wilson Homes wants to build a mix of two to five bedroom homes as well as a center with stores, and he will provide land for an elementary school, play areas and a community building.
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