Fears for environment amid plans to build 22,000 homes in York

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CONSERVATIONISTS have warned wildlife habitats must not be sacrificed amid plans to build 22,000 homes across York to address a critical lack of affordable housing.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has raised concerns about the 15-year vision for development and the effects that major house-building programmes will have on the environment, including one of the North of England’s most important nature sites.

The trust, which is the region’s oldest and largest nature conservation charity representing over 35,000 people, has recognised the need to adopt a city-wide brief, called the Local Plan, but stressed development needs to take place in a “controlled way” to protect wildlife habitats.

The trust’s chief executive, Rob Stoneman, said: “It is heartening that York Council is taking the impact of these proposals on wildlife seriously and we are pleased they have consulted us. It is vital that they now listen to our objections and move forward in a way that is not only beneficial to the development of York, but to the wildlife with which we share the city.”

The trust has raised specific concerns about two of the proposed development sites – a scheme to build 5,580 homes at Whinthorpe and another project to construct 511 new properties at Moor Lane, Woodthorpe.

The council has been warned the Moor Lane proposals would have a “clear detrimental impact” upon the trust’s oldest nature reserve, Askham Bog Site of Special Scientific Interest, one of the north of England’s most wildlife-rich sites. The trust has also voiced concerns about the negative impacts on the Heslington Tillmire Site of Special Scientific Interest and Lower Derwent Valley Special Protection Area through the proposed development at Whinthorpe.

Council leader James Alexander has maintained the Local Plan is vital to addressing the affordable housing crisis in York, while also setting out proposals to attract a new enterprise by developing 20 sites which could bring as many as 16,000 new jobs.

A public consultation on a draft version of the Local Plan ends on Wednesday, and the council has received more than 1,000 responses so far. The final version of the document will need approval from the Government and it is not expected to be adopted until 2015 at the earliest.