Monday, 11 June 2012

Grass Snakes: Hedge End Habitat Under Threat

Protected and Priority Species Status 
Council plans for an industrial park in Woodhouse Lane threaten a proven grass snake habitat - despite the grass snake being a "priority species" according to the Council's own Biodiversity Action Plan.

Suddenly realising that their plans for thousands of new houses on green fields in Hedge End and Botley are not sustainable, the controlling Lib Dems have been scrambling at the last minute to find new sites for "local employment" in the area - and most of these are green, not brown, field locations.   One of their preferred sites is in Woodhouse Lane, currently consisting of fields and rural style housing with large gardens (see pages 20- 21 of the new consultation document).   The Lib Dems would tarmac this over for a business or industrial park.

Yet an ecological assessment of part of the threatened area undertaken in 2010 found grass snakes to be present and possibly breeding there, as well as large numbers of foraging bats.  Grass snakes are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and since 2007 have been a priority species in the national Biodiversity Action Plan.

This habitat destruction would take place despite the Council's Biodiversity Action Plan's statement that the three biggest threats to Eastleigh's biodiversity are "Habitat loss or damage as a result of land-use change", "Habitat degradation through lack of management or unsympathetic management" and "Habitat Fragmentation".

It's not exactly joined up politics when one part of the council ignores what another part of the council is saying.

Consultations on the proposed "employment" sites and
the revised  Biodiversity Action Plan run until 13th July:  
Link to Draft Local Plan amendments consultation
Link to Revised BAP consultation

See also - Green Fields: Further Lib Dem Raids

Grass Snake Picture Credit: Lukas Jonaitis


  1. Bats,snakes,mating toads - it makes no difference. Nothing can be allowed to stand in the way of our economic progress.

    Gone are the days when the mere discovery of a colony of newts could cause the diversion of an entire motorway network.

    Developers - who are themselves only agents of local councils who are in turn being egged on by government to 'build our way out of recession' - have become adept at 'mitigation strategies' designed to re-home those bothersome threatened species that stand (or slither) between the bulldozer and our national prosperity.

    Snakes are no problem - they can easily be dealt with by nailing eco- friendly 'snake boxes' 20 feet up telephone poles where they can roost safely out of harms way.

    From his secret HQ in Threadneedle Sreet 'Mystic Merv' has, with a flick of his wrist, created the magic millions which has unleashed a land grabbing building frenzy.

    After all, massive building programs fuelled by cheap credit worked wonders for the economies of Ireland and Spain... so how could it possibly fail here?

    All over the land from Barnsley to Botley councils are falling over themselves to build, build build.

    Barnsley is raising £350 million to build THREE new Business Parks creating 5,000 jobs - 2,500 are construction jobs which leaves 2,500 ‘permanent’ jobs (at a cost of £140k each) and not a word where these jobs are supposed to be coming from.

    In order for us to stay competitive we must keep up with them.

    You see if you put a snake box up a tree – snakes will occupy it and if you re-develop their habitat as employment land - employers will flock there.

  2. BTW I was interested to learn that Barnsley Council are selling assets for £25 million in order to create 5,000 jobs while EBC are trying to borrow £36 million in order to save 500 jobs.

    1. Oh, yeah? What 500 jobs?

    2. Not sure Anon, but at a cost of £72,000 each they are well worth the investment.

      Not only that but it will stop your council tax going up.

    3. As I said earlier - Oh, yeah?

  3. Thank you for all the comments. I think it is important that the council is reminded that there should not be a presumption on building on green fields just because they are convenient and next to existing development, and that the biodiversity action plan should be acknowledged and have teeth.

    If at the end of the day green fields are sacrificed for employment, it should be for employment and not just business, ie the council should seek to maximise the number of jobs per sq foot of wildlife habitat destroyed and not just wave through plans which make money but don't create many jobs.

    I hope people will read this and reply to the consultation to oppose this anti-wildlife development.

    This post has overnight become the most read post on this blog. (Showing the power of a twitter retweet by Chris Packham!)

  4. Jenny Schwausch13 June 2012 at 16:09

    Proving the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword, Keith - good work.

  5. I know that people need homes. So I am all for there being a mass social housing buiding programme with affordable rents. Not sure this is what is proposed for Woodhouse Lane though? But anyway just because I believe in building houses does not mean I feel they can go just anywhere. One of our difficulties seems to be that so much of the country is owned by big estates and we cannot look at the country as a whole and make plans for sensible development. "We" are all squeezed into relatively small areas where we become over crowded with a lack of green spaces and a lack of wild life. I'd be really interested to read re alternative proposals? Does anyone have knowledge of a different site which could be used? Also will there be a campaign in Hedge End re this? I'm a third generation Hedge Ender and would be interested.

  6. Keith, I am in interested in both the environment and affordable housing, and generally sustainable development.

    I live up the road from you (you may recall on a day I was at home due to heavy snow about 18 months ago I took the opportunity to have a go at the LibDems reneging on the tuition fees issue).

    I am interested in campaigning to support the environment, and will have a look at the links.

    Interested to know what your alternative is.

    By the way, your blog was posted on a small Facebook group - Hedge End, West End & Botley Labour Party.

  7. Terry, I do remember that conversation, and thank you for the repost.

    Terry and Anon, I'm reluctant to get into discussing alternative sites, because that plays into the council's hands and enables them to play one set of residents off against another, but there is the large brownfield site at the car boot sale location opposite Tesco's that the council seem to be keen to protect at the expense of green field sites.

    The Town Council have supported my suggestion to start a network of Hedge End volunteers who are interested in supporting our wildlife in a practical way. We are going to call it the Hedge End BEE Team (BEE=biodiversity, environment and ecology)and will be collecting volunteers at the carnival. If you are interested in joining that group, please email your contact details to and we will put you on the distribution list.

    In the meantime it is important that people who object to this site being developed respond to the council's consultation.