Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Open Letter to Dame Margaret Beckett MP - The Sanctuary Bird Reserve

An Open Letter to Margaret Beckett MP  - The Sanctuary Local Nature Reserve

Dear Mrs Beckett

Letter to Margaret Beckett MP
 from Derby City Council
In June 2011 you received a written promise from Paul Robinson, Strategic Director for Neighbourhoods at Derby City Council. He assured you the Sanctuary Bird Reserve, which you opened as Secretary of State for the Environment in 2004, would not be harmed by development of  a multi user sports arena (velodrome) at Pride Park. He said “we do not require any of The Sanctuary land”.  We now know this not to be true.

Here is a video of your 2004 opening speech alongside the Mayor of Derby in 2004.     
In the video you publicly praise Derby Council’s integrated approach to planning, its forethought and imagination in creating The Sanctuary Bird Reserve, and for protecting the declining habitat of the Skylark, for which your Department then had a responsibility.

May I invite you now to publicly deplore Derby Council’s current attempt to push through a planning application to build a mile-long pay-to-race cycle track on top of the very open mosaic grassland habitat for skylarks and wheatear and reed bunting that The Sanctuary was intended to protect?

I understand Council Leader Paul Bayliss has written to all the Planning Committee members to voice his support for the proposals;  so may I invite you to inform them of your own opinion on this matter? We trust the chair of the Planning Committee, who went to the House of Commons in 2005 to accept a ‘Green Apple’ award for The Sanctuary Bird Reserve on behalf of Derby City Council will not be swayed by her Leader’s remarks, or his lack of concern for biodiversity or Local Plan policies.

Everyone in Derby knows there is a perfectly adequate alternative cycle circuit location just 1.8 miles away, around the new athletics track at Derby Moorways.
Derby Moorways Athletics Track
- plenty of room for a 1.2km closed cycle racing circuit!

The muddy tracks were made by a recent National cyclocross racing
event, organised by, errm, British Cycling.
The Moorways Stadium site “scored highest against the evaluation criteria”  in an independent 2009 report, commissioned by Derby Council, but is now unreasonably dismissed as unsuitable in current planning application documents.  We do know from those documents that British Cycling is only willing to spend lottery/government money if it can build on top of The Sanctuary. Experts have shown Derby's figures of damage to be an under-estimate, and that 46% of the LNR will either be lost or so badly disturbed that skylarks and other birds would abandon it - many of them UK Priority BAP S

So a unique bird reserve is potentially set to become the first Local Nature Reserve in England to be developed and damaged in this appalling way by an Authority that previously declared the site of the highest importance for nature and for people, and which was opened to much acclaim by you.

Yet in a little over a year's time there will be a new regional outdoor cycle racing circuit built just 15 miles away at Harvey Haddon Sports Complex near Nottingham, also with British Cycling funding.

At the 11th hour another Local Wildlife Site called Alvaston Scrub (DE053) has been offered as compensation for loss of bird habitat. As well as being totally inappropriate land to offer in compensation, existing leisure and recreation routes run right through it, and no ecological evidence or funding offer has been submitted to show how scrubland could be modified to create equivalent undisturbed habitat needed by the rare bird assemblages found on the open mosaic habitat, now about to be lost or disturbed by cycle racing and mountain biking at The Sanctuary.

The national precedent being set of a Local Nature Reserve being unnecessarily built upon, and thus having to be de-declared as an LNR has led wildlife broadcaster Chris Packham to call it ‘a vile act of wanton vandalism. [worth reading the cylists' comments on this link]

This is a far cry from your speech in 2004 when you described The Sanctuary Bird Reserve as ‘a feather in the cap of the city of Derby’.

Will you prevail upon Derby’s Planning Committee members to consider which statement they believe to be the most accurate and, unlike Cllr Bayliss, to consider the alternative location as the best option for Derby and for urban biodiversity?

- ENDS - 
This letter was sent 29th January 2014, and cc-ed to all nine members of Derby's Planning Committee.
Related blog posts:  
A Sanctuary - but for how long? 23 May 2011(First open letter to Dame Margaraet Beckett MP)

1 comment:

  1. Well done Nick and your colleagues for bringing this matter to our attention. It's the thin edge of a potentially huge wedge I'd say. Good luck and I hope that many more folk will add to the large and increasing numbers of supporters objecting to this planned development of a racing track on part of The Sanctuary Bird and Wildlife Reserve at Pride Park in Derby.