Durham nature groups welcome planned habitat enhancements for local wildlife at Mount Oswald site

October 24, 2012 | Community News

Plans to encourage wildlife diversification and enhance the habitats available to local wildlife as part of the proposed development of the Mount Oswald site in Durham City have been welcomed by three Durham nature groups.

Durham Wildlife Trust, The Woodland Trust, and the Durham Bat Group have come together to recognise the lengths to which the Meadowfield-based Banks Group has gone to prioritise the needs with its Mount Oswald development proposals.

Banks developed a ‘green infrastructure plan’ as part of the Mount Oswald planning application, a core part of which looks at a range of measures to encourage the diversification of wildlife in the area. 

Existing animal corridors that run through the site both on the ground and through the trees would be safeguarded and improved, and a range of habitat enhancements would be introduced.

New woodland in the central part of the site would link up with existing copses, and both new and existing footpaths would also link communities with surrounding green spaces at Blaid’s Wood and the Woodland Trust’s Low Burnhall site.

Jim Cokill, director at the Durham Wildlife Trust, says: “Banks has recognised the importance of progressing development work within the widest possible view of sustainability, and of supporting and providing connections between habitats across a site such as Mount Oswald.

“The proposals that have been put forward very much fit in with our Living Landscapes agenda, which aims to support wildlife-rich spaces in rural and urban areas by working in partnership with local communities, landowners, schools and businesses, and we would like to see any development that takes place carried forward in a similar vein.”

Gary Haley, site manager for The Woodland Trust’s estate in the north east, adds: “Linking up and extending existing woodland areas through the planting of new native species, rather than planting in isolation, is an important factor in securing the well-being of these areas, and we’re pleased to see that Banks has adopted this approach within its Mount Oswald development plans.

“The recent report by the Independent Panel On Forestry into the future of woodland in England expressed the desire to increase the amount of woodland cover across the country from ten to 15 percent by 2060, and development work that properly considers the natural environment has an important role to play in realising that ambition.”

Noel Jackson of the Durham Bat Group says: “This is an important site, not only in terms of the roosting and feeding places it provides for the bat population, but also in the way that it acts as a link across the whole of the south Durham area.

“We’re very pleased with the way in which we’ve been directly involved in the consultation process around the Mount Oswald development proposals, as all too often, wildlife issues only get paid lip service in this sort of consultative process, rather than receiving the full attention that they merit.

“As a volunteer group, the time that our members have to be involved with this sort of project does not conform to standard office hours.  Banks have recognised this in the way they’ve scheduled meetings and events at times that have enabled us to be present, and their approach should be a model for the way that such consultations are carried out in the future.”

Based around the concept of a linear park, the Mount Oswald development would see a number of natural corridors running through the site which open up into a range of different public spaces, which, along with a network of footpaths, would cover more than 17 acres of land across the whole site.

Both formal play spaces and informal open spaces are included in the plan, as well as a community garden, over 3.5 kilometres of new footpaths and a sustainable drainage system that help ensure water resources are used as efficiently as possible.

As well as encompassing executive housing and an education quarter, the scheme would also include a range of new community facilities, with local employment opportunities being created through a new convenience store, health centre, small offices and the sustainable re-use of the Mount Oswald manor house.

Banks submitted a planning application for the Mount Oswald scheme in August, and is hoping that a decision will be made on it before the end of the year.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, says: “The Mount Oswald proposals very much fit in with the Council’s vision for Durham City as a driver of economic growth in County Durham, providing the employment and housing to meet the needs of local people and to attract and retain high achieving entrepreneurs and a highly skilled workforce.”

“Environmental and habitat management has to be a real priority for any responsible developer, especially on such a landmark development as this – every aspect of it is being planned out in great detail to ensure we put forward the most appropriate designs and ideas for the site, and we’re pleased that the quality of the work we’ve done is being recognised by these experts in their fields.

“The measures we are proposing would not only safeguard the homes and habitats of the area’s existing animal occupants, but will also actively encourage a wider variety of wildlife to make their homes on the Mount Oswald site and would help to create a much-improved range of natural habitats.

“As well as providing new public open spaces and enhanced wildlife habitats in the area, the realisation of this scheme would deliver many other benefits, including creating employment opportunities for local people, enhancing the local property market and bringing increased revenues for the local and regional economies.”

Anyone who would like more information on the Mount Oswald development proposals can contact the Banks community relations team by calling 0191 378 6100 or www.banksgroup.co.uk/mount-oswald

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