Development on Maidenhead Golf Course could have a ‘significant negative impact’ on existing habitats and species according to a new ecological survey.
Commissioned by campaigners opposed to the development, a series of surveys revealed species on the highest UK conservation status are present on the golf course.
The Maidenhead Great Park group, which has lodged a legal challenge against the council’s adopted Borough Local Plan, has commissioned the survey.
According to Sundew Ecology’s Preliminary Ecological Assessment of the site, prepared by Alex Cruickshank BSc (Hons) MSc MCIEEM, any development is ‘likely to cause a significant loss of habitat within the site, notably improved and semi-improved grassland, woodland and scrub, some of which are considered Priority Habitats’.
It adds ‘the loss of habitat and increased disturbance is likely to have a significant negative impact on a number of species, including reptiles, amphibians, birds, bats and badgers, all of which are afforded some legal protection’.
About 2,000 homes are expected for the 132-acre site, which is home to a wide range of wildlife including roe and muntjac deer, foxes, woodpeckers, jays, woodland birds, butterflies, moths, bees, bumblebees, stag beetles, grass snakes, moths, owls, kestrels, red kites, hedgehogs, slow worms, sparrowhawks and at least eight species of bats.
Drawing on conclusions from other ecological surveys by BSG Ecology and Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, Martin Woolner, local conservationist and woodland ecologist, said ‘biodiversity and well-functioning ecosystems are critical for human existence’.
He added: “There are hundreds of oak trees of around 100 years in age which provide vital habitats for many species, including butterflies, moths, woodland birds, bees and beetles.
“Numbers of insects and birds have declined dramatically in the last 20 years. If we are to halt this decline in our natural world, we must stop the destruction of woodlands and other habitats that support biodiversity.
“By protecting these important few remaining woodlands in Maidenhead, and taking action to better manage them for wildlife, there will be significant benefits for both local people and wildlife.”
Tina Quadrino, chair of MGP, added the surveys ‘build a picture of significant biodiversity’ on the golf course, although ‘more studies of the flora and fauna at different seasons of the year are needed to gain further insights’.
“It makes absolutely no sense to willfully destroy wildlife habitats on publicly owned land at a time when nature is already in decline and facing even more stress as the climate changes,” said Tina.
“We are urgently calling for the protection and specialist management of the 50 plus acres of woodland under threat at Maidenhead Golf Course, including the ancient woodland at Rushington Copse.”
A council spokesperson said: “Sustainability and the environment is a key consideration in the Borough Local Plan and the draft Supplementary Planning Document for South West Maidenhead, which will bring forward much-needed new homes, community facilities, infrastructure, employment space and improved public access to green space.
“The draft SPD, which will become a key consideration in deciding planning applications, reaffirms important commitments to delivering a sustainable, net carbon zero development, including 10 per cent biodiversity net gain, a green/blue infrastructure network helping wildlife move across the site, a highly connected green spine running north-south through the site, retention of Rushington Copse and as many other trees as practically possible, along with planting new trees where possible.
“Developers are already alive to the aspirations of the council and the community. Biodiversity net gain is key in our planning policy, and in shaping their planning applications developers must meet that requirement.
“Developers will need to commission independent ecological surveys of their sites to accompany their planning applications, identify protected species, consider impacts on habitats, and meet any legal obligations in relation to any protected species. However, we’re happy to share the Preliminary Ecological Assessment with developers.”
For more information about the Maidenhead Great Park campaign, go to www.maidenheadgreatpark.co.uk
More information about the supplementary planning document that will cover the area can be found at: www.rbwm.gov.uk/SWMaidenhead-SPD