|Hedge End's Priority Biodiversity Links|
Unsurprisingly for an area that continues to be a Lib Dem target for large scale housing and commercial development, Hedge End does not have any "priority biodiversity areas" (PBA), but it does have three "priority biodiversity links" (PBL) which - according to the action plan - should be enhanced.
Hedge End's PBLs are the motorway and railway corridors and a more meandering link named the "Wildern Priority Biodiversity Link". Starting at the M27 Junction 7, it has one leg which follows the "heavily modified" urban stream through Hogsty Copse and along Turnpike Way, which it crosses via a culvert at the "superstore" footpath. It continues through Wildern Nature Park, crossing Wildern Lane just south of the school. It then follows the boundary of the school playing fields, crosses Grange Road, passes through the grounds of the hotel and into the Lib Dems' preferred strategic housing development area west of Woodhouse Lane where it joins up with the second leg which has taken a bendy course from the railway line through what is at the moment agricultural countryside, but is doomed to disappear under tarmac and concrete. The BPL then continues through Bottom Copse, across Woodhouse Lane and on through Botley Parish where it connects with the upper reaches of the Hamble Estuary PBA.
The document acknowledges that the link is and will be constrained by development along much of its length, but it does give some recognition to local wildlife habitats including rivers, meadows and fen, floodplain grazing marsh, grass and rush pastures, hedgerows, and woodland, all of which - it says - have potential for restoration.
Sadly it coincides with a watering down of the Council's commitment to work to "protect, conserve and enhance networks of natural habitats and features, including watercourses and trees and hedgerows important to biodiversity and local character" in the Draft Local Plan. The latest version merely requires the Council to "have regard to opportunities to protect and enhance the Priority Biodiversity Links set out in the Council's Biodiversity Action Plan".
A glance at the map shows that the Wildern PBL divides the area designated for housing West of Woodhouse Lane into two unequal parts (one looking west to the existing Grange Park estates, and one looking east towards Woodhouse Lane), which is going to make things more difficult for future developers. It will be interesting to see if council planners and Borough councillors are capable of keeping their own wildlife links intact in the face of pressure from those developers.
The full Biodiversity Action Plan can be read on the Council's web site.