Triumph of community engagement at planning inquiry: recognition of the benefits of biodiversity for local and wider communities

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The recent rejection of planning permission, sought by Buccleuch Properties (Kettering) Ltd, for logistics warehouses on a Local Wildlife Site (LWS) north of Kettering demonstrates what a local community can achieve on behalf of their local environment.

Under the umbrella of the Save Weekley Hall Wood (SWHW) campaign and supported by the Local Wildlife Trust, detailed ecological evidence about the environmental significance of the site was gathered by dedicated volunteers over a number of months and presented to the inquiry.

Such evidence would not have otherwise been forthcoming, the Council contesting the application for various reasons but not on ecological or biodiversity grounds. This, despite the fact that the LWS, which is a lowland meadow, a habitat designated as of ‘principal importance’ under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (s.41), would have been almost entirely destroyed as a result of the development.

The Inspector rightly recognised that the complete loss of the botanical value of the meadow and the impact on the fauna that use it would amount to “significant harm”.

During the two-week Inquiry, dozens of SWHW supporters demonstrated the benefits that a site so rich in biodiversity can bring to residents and to society at large. Thus, the Inspector agreed not only that the development would result in significant visual harm but also that the biodiversity impacts occasioned by the loss of the meadow would materially diminish the value of the site for the local and wider community both in nature conservation and recreational terms. This is an important and welcome recognition.

Harrison Grant Ring is acting for SWHW, instructing Paul Stinchcombe KC of 39 Essex Chambers.

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