Sunday, 31 August 2014

Cherwell District Plan: Banbury and Bicester set for many more houses and major development

Banbury and Bicester are set to get a lot of extra housing and employment development if  revisions to the draft Local Plan are accepted.  Thousands of extra houses are planned, especially on the west side of Banbury.  Equally significantly, employment development (including distribution depots) will break into the green buffer immediately east of J11 on the M40 at Banbury.  In Bicester, new development could take place on fields next to the Bicester Wetlands nature reserve.

For details have a look at the detailed consultation documents here.  Looks like we are set for two decades of massive construction in our area, with HS2 firmly on the horizon and all of these housing and industrial developments likely to start soon.

Will it make much difference to our wildlife, even if the landcape is badly impacted?  Interesting question. Mark Avery talks favourably about a Waitrose development which might be better for wildlife than the farmland preceding it.  This example also shows how poor so much of our farmland has become for wildlife.  So perhaps some well planned developments with good green space, habitat corridors and the like will be better.  The plan talks the talk so there is some hope.  But what we really need are those special habitats that are now so scarce - wet grasslands, flower-rich meadows, native woodland, heathland.  We need more than habitat corridors and great crested newt ponds, good and worthwhile though they are.

Earlier today I had a chance to make my first visit to the Pauline Flick nature reserve near Great Rollright, managed by the Banbury Ornithological Society.  A stretch of former railway line that has developed as woodland and scrub with a grassy ride running up the middle.
view along the abandoned railway line
a view out from the nature reserve to the arable landscape beyond
wild angelica
Elderberries were laden with fruit and small flocks of birds were making their way along the habitat corridor, including marsh tits and goldcrests.  A raven called at is flew slowly overhead. Many beautiful flowers of wild angelica lined the grassy ride.

I have taken on the Conservation Officer role for the BOS so I'm leading on responding to planning issues - like the Local Plan.  This can be heavy going, but another recent case feels more immediately beneficial.  This concerns the Horsehay Farm sand quarry at Dun's Tew, home to the largest (and until recently, only) sand martin colony in Banburyshire.  There are plans to extend the quarry, including making long-term provision for the martins.  A lot of the sand will be required to make the mortar for all those new houses (at least for those built traditionally in Hornton stone, requiring the special golden sand from this quarry).  So more houses for Banbury should leave a legacy of homes for sand martins.  I hope the BOS will be able to work with the quarry owners to ensure this happens.

Finally, back in Upper Wardington, a young wood pigeon is making rapid growth in the typically flimsy nest located in our hedge.

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