Posted by: swinemoor | January 11, 2014

Problems and Precedents

The Issue

The idea of accessing the former Westwood Hospital site across the Westwood has produced a lot of hot air and consumed many column inches in the Beverley Guardian in recent weeks. However, until the consultation at the Beverley Arms last Thursday, 9th January 2014, much of this has been uninformed. At this meeting the proposed site access routes were shown on a map.

Route 1: as we know will involve utilising The Leases, Albert Terrace, St Mary’s Terrace and Woodlands;

Route 2: this will involve crossing the Westwood from Walkington Road.

There are problems with using both of these routes and these are listed below.

Route 1 Problems

  1. Congestion in the narrow streets;
  2. Increased traffic movements on these streets;
  3. Increased noise for the residents.

Route 2 Problems

  1. The route of this access road will cross and damage ancient common land;
  2. The route will damage the existing grassland;
  3. The route will involve the removal of a section of species-rich hedgerow;
  4. The route will involve the removal of a small tree;
  5. There will be increased traffic movements on the Westwood;
  6. The temporary road will set a precedent.

Route 1 Mitigation Measures

  1. The developers have said they will limit lorry movements to 12 per day during demolition ( few months);
  2. The developers have said they will limit lorry movements to 6 per day during the construction phase, sixteen months;
  3. The developers will use a small lorry;
  4. There will be no lorry movements during the rush hours nor at school pick-up and drop-off times.

Route 2 Mitigation Measures

  1. The developers say they will re-instate the grassland;
  2. They will replant the hedge;
  3. They will replant the tree.

Discussion

It would appear that the problems associated with Route 1 can be easily mitigated against and the very small number of lorry movements per day is more than reasonable, especially when you take into consideration the number of movements there used to be when the Westwood Hospital was open and when the new housing estate is built. These movements included ambulances, delivery vehicles and patients being picked-up and dropped-off. Concern has also been raised regarding the danger to schoolchildren at Minster School. The developers appear to have taken this into account in their plans: living in the area, we would say the biggest risk to local children is local residents speeding along The Leases or rat-running up Central Avenue and Thurston Road to get to Cartwright Lane.

Proposed Access Route 2  © Google Maps

Proposed Access Route 2
© Google Maps

In terms of the access across the Westwood, there appears to very little that the developers can do to mitigate against the damage they will cause. The proposed route will be between the final two mature horse chestnut trees before the gate, (removing the recently planted tree within the fenced compound), crossing the Westwood diagonally before entering the hospital site across the existing ha ha, which is vegetated (see above). Whilst they have said they will reinstate everything they damage, in ecological terms this is easier said than done and, in most cases, is impossible. What is the situation here? The removal of the single, small sapling within the fenced compound, planted to fill-in the ‘gap’ in the horse chestnut avenue, will have very little affect and replanting will easily mitigate this. The access across the grassland is more problematical and any damage cannot be easily reversed. However, the quality of the grassland here is relatively poor and it has low species-diversity. There is little evidence here for an undisturbed soil profile, however, the weight of the vehicles crossing the grassland will compress it and damage the microfauna within it, something that ploughing-up and reseeding will not correct.

The biggest problem with this route, from an ecological point of view, will be the removal of trees from within the species-rich hedge (click more below) that sits on and adjacent to the ha ha bordering the Westwood. There does seem to be a belief that the trees here are dead and, therefore, there is very little to lose if they are removed. There are two misconceptions here, firstly that the trees are dead and secondly little is lost by their removal. The upright dead branches visible in this location belong the an English Elm tree that has been ravaged by Dutch Elm Disease. However, the elm itself is very much alive and is suckering from the bottom, although it is suffering from cattle browsing. This hedgerow section is an example of what are known as ‘suckering elm’ hedges, a (now sadly diminished) feature of the English Countryside. If the access route is put through here, there is the risk we will lose the English Elm from this hedgerow. The dead upright stems are a fantastic habitat in their own right and provide a food source for many species of birds, including woodpeckers and other insectivorous species, such as Blue and Great Tits. If you look at these stems, you can see the holes in the stems made by these birds as they hunt for food and, if left in situ, the English Elm will continue to produce this valuable resource in perpetuity.

The problem of precedent cannot easily be undone, once the access route has been constructed. This will encourage other developers (with the collusion of ERYC?) to do likewise in order to develop other sites, more difficult to access than the old Westwood Hospital site, by insisting on temporary access across the Westwood. This would open areas, such as Grosvenor Place and Minster School to development pressure.

Conclusions

When considering planning applications, developers have to show that they have at first avoided causing damage to biodiversity. If this cannot be done then they need to mitigate. Finally, if the development really must go ahead (usually in the public interest) then compensation (the creation of new ares of habitat for that lost) can be considered. A new fourth option, biodiversity offsetting, is being trialed in some Local Authority areas but with limited success. The question one needs to ask then is can the damage to the species-rich hedge and soil profile be avoided and the answer to this is clearly yes, as the construction traffic can access the site via Route 1. In view of this, the next option, mitigation, should not be considered by the developer or the Local Planning Authority. However, in view of the lessons learned from the way that ERYC behaved over the Swinemoor ‘Hospital’ fiasco, we know we cannot rely on the LPA implementing the guidance correctly. Therefore, it is for the people of Beverley and the Pasture Masters to stand up to ERYC, as our predecessors have done, and preserve the sanctity of the Westwood and thereby ensure it remains untrammeled as a resource for our children and our children’s children.

The hedge here contains more woody species in a 30m length than the 4 required for classification as species-rich North of the Humber. It also contains historic features, such as the ha ha, and is part of a Medieval common boundary. The woody species are:

  • Ash Fraxinus excelsior
  • Blackthorn Prunus spinosa
  • Dog Rose Rosa canina agg.
  • English Elm Ulmus procera
  • Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna
  • Holly Ilex europeaus

Responses

  1. […] though the ‘Town Route‘ forms the basis of the CMP, there seemingly is still an intention to attempt to secure […]

  2. […] prime development land on the Beverley side of Westwood. This suspicion was first aroused in the Westwood Hospital temporary road debate and has been reinforced by the determination of ERYC to engineer this situation rather than seek a […]


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