Watch Caron Bell's report
Bath and North East Somerset Council is facing criticism after it granted permission to its own development company to build houses on a nature reserve. The decision came a month after the council declared an ‘ecological emergency’, vowing to resist the destruction of wildlife habitats.
37 homes are to be built on the Tufa Field site off Englishcombe Lane in Bath, with provisions for a larger area to be set aside for wildlife at Pennyquick. Of the 37 homes, 14 will be classed as ‘affordable’, of which eight will be for social rent.
The Council says all homes will be built to a high environmental standard, adding that there will be a net gain for wildlife from the development.
The balance between development and ecology is a fine one. The planning permission was granted with a significant number of requirements on the ecology which the developer must meet.
Some local residents, and the council’s own ecologist, dispute the claim that wildlife will gain overall from the project.
Local resident Danny Groves says, “If we destroy ecologically important land like this, we’re destroying ourselves. I think people are beginning to realise that.
"That’s why BANES Council itself took the brave step of declaring an ecological emergency. So it seems very bizarre to us that they’ve gone against that ecological emergency.”
Already, attempts to move the site’s wildlife have caused controversy. Under the development plans, slow worms - a protected species of lizard living on the reserve - will be trapped and transferred to the new area.
But residents claim many of the animals were killed when a tractor was brought in to start preparing the land for building.
They didn’t even have anyone walk in front of the tractor to lift the traps that they put down. They ran straight over the tops of it.
BANES Council says that it takes allegations of harm to wildlife very seriously but, despite investigations, cannot find evidence of deliberate or accident harm to the animals.
Although a complaint was made to Avon & Somerset Police, the force has decided not to proceed with the case.