As many members will be aware GNS has been involved in various ways with the controversial development proposal for the Cinderford Northern Quarter site at Steam Mills in the Forest of Dean.
There is currently a Hybrid Planning Application in place with Forest of Dean District Council which was due to be decided during August but so many comments, observations, objections and amendments have been made that the decision date has been pushed back to possible September or even October. This is a significant and complex matter, there are now several hundred documents relating to the application available to view on the Council web-site.
As might be imagined, the Homes and Communities Agency and the Forest of Dean District Council have made a number of statements in respect of the development and the effects it will have, both in terms of the effects on the environment and wildlife and in terms of the economic benefit they believe will accrue to the area. They have made comments regarding the mitigation measure that are proposed for dealing with the wildlife on the site which is varied, extensive and amounts to 1300+ recorded species, a number of which are threatened or rare with Amber and Red conservation status. There could be many more if those species that have not been counted and recorded are taken into account. GNS members have been pro-active in adding to the list. Part of the site sits within a Special Area of Conservation as a result of the population of Lesser Horseshoe Bats (and others) which inhabit and use the site, the total numbers of which make the site notable in a European context, let alone a national or regional context.
The wildlife organisations, GNS among them, see things rather differently from the HCA and F of DDC; GNS along with other organisations through the medium of the Cinderford Regeneration Environmental Forum and by other means are attempting to influence the Council to at least modify the development and mitigation for the benefit of the wildlife on the site. It does seem that the message is beginning to get through and that some things are being re-considered and may change.
Dean Natural Alliance, a group of like-minded individuals and organisations, largely wildlife interested, have objected most strongly to the development and have had some publicity in the pages of the local newspapers. DNA held an open public meeting at the Forest Church Rooms in June, followed by a second meeting in July at the Speech House at which Jonathan Porritt was the main speaker. A copy of the report from the first DNA public meeting is appended below.
As things progress, we will give further updates and will continue to do what we can to limit the adverse effects of the development.