Askham Bog planning decision upheld by Secretary of State

A planning application to build 516 homes in close proximity to Askham Bog nature reserve on the outskirts of York, was rejected and the decision upheld this month by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Askham BogThe case has been the subject of intense local and international interest, including from Sir David Attenborough who voiced his opposition to the development plans in 2019 and gave his backing to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust campaign, who run the nature reserve.

The planning application submitted by developers Barwood Land in July 2019 to build more than 500 homes was turned down by City of York Council. A subsequent appeal of this planning decision led to a 12-day planning inquiry being held in November last year.

Our colleague Alex Jones, a hydrogeologist and chartered geologist based at our Saltaire Office acted as an expert witness for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in the planning inquiry. Alex has been telling us about the case:

“Due to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust investment in Askham Bog, their oldest reserve, they were given ‘Rule 6’ party status at the inquiry to outline their significant concerns regarding the development. The trust put together a team of expert witnesses including Sir John Lawton, Professor Fitter and myself, lead by Emma-Louise Fenelon and Darragh Coffey who were instructed by the Environmental Law Foundation to act as barristers behalf of the trust.

My role, with Professor Fitter, was to understand the impacts on the ecohydrological system that supported the irreplaceable habitats of the SSSI, and then to assess the impact of the development on that system. My conclusion was that the large attenuation basin neighbouring the site could negatively impact water supply mechanisms that supported by bog. The results were presented to the inspector through written statements and at orally at the inquiry. In the Inspector’s Report, it appears that these arguments, amongst others, were key in supporting the decision:

For the SSSI, development which is likely to have an adverse effect should not normally be permitted…. I find that two separate effects of the attenuation ponds proposed…. would greatly reduce the contribution which the site as a whole makes to the supply of base-rich nutrients to the area in the vicinity of the Askham Bog Drain and so these effects would probably cause harm to the interests for which the Bog is cited as an SSSI and to the deterioration of irreplaceable fenland habitat….. This reason alone would be sufficient to dismiss the appeal.

The result is a great credit to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and all their hard work throughout the process, and I look forward to celebrating with the team in person as soon as it is possible. ”

Why is Askham Bog important?

Askham Bog is a 44ha designated Site of Special Scientific Interest located south west of the City of York, and is renowned for its royal ferns, rare gingerbread sedge, marsh orchids, diverse bird life and rare invertebrates, found across a patchwork of woodland, fen and meadow.

Askham Bog is a remarkable survivor of the ancient fenlands of Yorkshire. It occupies the site of an ancient lake, left behind by a retreating glacier 15,000 years ago – the low hill to the south of the Bog, is the terminal moraine from that glacier.

Source: Yorkshire Wildlife Trust website

Want to know more?

For more information about the Askham Bog planning inquiry email Alex Jones. You can also find out more on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust web pages.

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