Butterfly effect halts plans for 500 homes

Dr Pat Clissold at the Gavray Drive meadows

A rare marsh fritillary butterfly

A great crested newt

A slow worm © Andy Fairbairn

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A WILDLIFE expert concerned about rare butterflies has overturned planning permission for 500 new homes.

Ecologist Dominic Woodfield, 42, managed to get quashed planning approval for homes near Bicester’s Gavray Drive at the High Court.

Gallagher Estates was granted permission for homes on the 23-hectare site in 2006 following a public inquiry, and it was later renewed in 2011. Work at the site had not started.

Mr Woodfield took legal action over concerns Cherwell District Council had failed to comply with Environmental Impact Assessment regulations, and that it had made its planning renewal decision based on inadequate information provided by Gallagher Estates.

He was concerned about butterflies – in particular the marsh fritillary – as well as lizards, snakes, slow worms, great crested newts and unusual wild flowers in the area.

Mr Woodfield, director of Bioscan UK, based in Little Baldon, South Oxfordshire, said: “I felt the approach taken by the council was not only inadequate but unlawful. They disagreed, leaving me with no option but to bring the legal challenge.”

He said he undertook the legal challenge at “significant financial risk” and would have been liable for several thousand pounds had he lost.

High Court judge Mr Justice Nicholas Underhill quashed planning approval last week after a hearing in December.

Mr Woodfield said he was pleased but expected homes to be built at the site eventually.

He said: “I hope that they, and the council, now accept that a better scheme is needed, with fewer houses and more land set aside to protect the site’s important wildlife.

“Better, and early, engagement with local residents and wildlife groups will help to ensure that a sensible compromise between development and the need to protect wildlife is achieved.”

A spokesman for Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) said Gavray Drive was the last site in Oxfordshire known to support the marsh fritillary butterfly, and is also one of very few sites in the country to support all five hairstreak butterflies.

Beccy Micklem, BBOWT’s senior conservation officer for Oxfordshire, said: “We welcome this decision and we hope that it will lead to a more wildlife-friendly approach to development at Gavray Drive.

“We have always recognised that some development could take place while still protecting the important wildlife associated with the meadows. It is regrettable that the correct rules were not followed to assess the environmental impact of the development and that Mr Woodfield had to resort to court action.”

Dr Pat Clissold, who lives in nearby Langford Village estate, said “It’s good news that the developer will now have to go back to the drawing board.

“Most locals, when asked, do not want this green space lost, but most of us thought there was nothing that could be done about it.”

The district council said it had since received another planning application for 500 homes on the site from Gallagher Estates.

Council spokesman Tony Ecclestone said its costs were £13,000 for the judicial review at the High Court and it also had to pay as yet undetermined costs for Mr Woodfield.

Gallagher Estates declined to comment.

Comments (6)

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1:17pm Thu 24 Jan 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

The great crested newt must be one of the most prolific creatures in the UK - they are resident on almost every potential building plot.
The great crested newt must be one of the most prolific creatures in the UK - they are resident on almost every potential building plot. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

3:15pm Thu 24 Jan 13

Grunden Skip says...

The way things are going Andrew, nothing is going to get built anywhere ever. do these types of "people" not realise that others need somewhere to live, and we have a housing crisis that in ten years is going to bite us very hard on the bum. Mr Woodfield, you have also shown your ignorance by basing your HQ on a site that was once just the kind of environment that you are trying to "save" before it was built on.
The way things are going Andrew, nothing is going to get built anywhere ever. do these types of "people" not realise that others need somewhere to live, and we have a housing crisis that in ten years is going to bite us very hard on the bum. Mr Woodfield, you have also shown your ignorance by basing your HQ on a site that was once just the kind of environment that you are trying to "save" before it was built on. Grunden Skip
  • Score: 0

4:04pm Mon 28 Jan 13

Nevermind_me says...

Well Done Mr Woodford and Bioscan for pushing this up the agenda. All too often the 'greater good' of short term economic decisions has allowed inappropriate housing in inappropriate places. The Marsh Fritillary is an Annex II European Protected Species. Failure to protect Marsh Fritillary habitat means the UK can be fined large amounts of money from Europe for failing to conserve a species in severe decline internationally - like building houses on tigers for the less aware amongst you. I am delighted to see this small victory as all too often the £££ over rules responsibility to the future, to international law, to locally important sites.
Well Done Mr Woodford and Bioscan for pushing this up the agenda. All too often the 'greater good' of short term economic decisions has allowed inappropriate housing in inappropriate places. The Marsh Fritillary is an Annex II European Protected Species. Failure to protect Marsh Fritillary habitat means the UK can be fined large amounts of money from Europe for failing to conserve a species in severe decline internationally - like building houses on tigers for the less aware amongst you. I am delighted to see this small victory as all too often the £££ over rules responsibility to the future, to international law, to locally important sites. Nevermind_me
  • Score: 0

11:43pm Mon 28 Jan 13

Severian says...

How can Gavray Drive be overturned because of some butterflies, yet a 5,000 house "Eco-town" be given the go-ahead without Cherwell District Council even seeing any plans? And no environmental impact assessment, or analysis of the impact on humans as well as wildlife?

Presumably because they used the word "Eco" they can get the nod, no questions asked.

Next time Gallaghers should get canny and re-apply for the "Gavray Drive Eco-Village Park" and they will have no problems with planning permission.
How can Gavray Drive be overturned because of some butterflies, yet a 5,000 house "Eco-town" be given the go-ahead without Cherwell District Council even seeing any plans? And no environmental impact assessment, or analysis of the impact on humans as well as wildlife? Presumably because they used the word "Eco" they can get the nod, no questions asked. Next time Gallaghers should get canny and re-apply for the "Gavray Drive Eco-Village Park" and they will have no problems with planning permission. Severian
  • Score: 0

11:44pm Mon 28 Jan 13

Severian says...

And another thing - I don't recall there being many environmentalists campaigning back in the days when that bit of land was regularly used by kids to ride their off-road motorbikes on.
And another thing - I don't recall there being many environmentalists campaigning back in the days when that bit of land was regularly used by kids to ride their off-road motorbikes on. Severian
  • Score: 0

11:47pm Mon 28 Jan 13

Severian says...

Grunden Skip wrote:
The way things are going Andrew, nothing is going to get built anywhere ever. do these types of "people" not realise that others need somewhere to live, and we have a housing crisis that in ten years is going to bite us very hard on the bum. Mr Woodfield, you have also shown your ignorance by basing your HQ on a site that was once just the kind of environment that you are trying to "save" before it was built on.
There are lots of places where houses would be more appropriately (and more environmentally friendly) built. The old Valor Bruce factory could be cleared and you could easily get 50+ houses on the site, for starters. But we can't build on it, because our planners (based in Banbury) have decided that only greenfield land in Bicester is appropriate for expansion.
[quote][p][bold]Grunden Skip[/bold] wrote: The way things are going Andrew, nothing is going to get built anywhere ever. do these types of "people" not realise that others need somewhere to live, and we have a housing crisis that in ten years is going to bite us very hard on the bum. Mr Woodfield, you have also shown your ignorance by basing your HQ on a site that was once just the kind of environment that you are trying to "save" before it was built on.[/p][/quote]There are lots of places where houses would be more appropriately (and more environmentally friendly) built. The old Valor Bruce factory could be cleared and you could easily get 50+ houses on the site, for starters. But we can't build on it, because our planners (based in Banbury) have decided that only greenfield land in Bicester is appropriate for expansion. Severian
  • Score: 0

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