Concerns raised over planned Bridgnorth venue
A wildlife group says it has "concerns" over a plan for the £50million redevelopment of a country estate, but does welcome a number of parts of the scheme.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust has written to Shropshire Council in response to a request from the company, FCFM, for planning permission to transform the Astbury Estate, near Bridgnorth, into a "world class" leisure venue.
In its submission Robin Mager, of the trust, said that the organisation would want to see some parts of the plans "repositioned" to protect wildlife, including habitats suitable for dormice.
Mr Mager did welcome a number of measures raised in the plans from FCFM, including a "minimum 20m development buffer around the Mor Brook", the "creation of hibernacula for great crested newts", the "inclusion of barn owl nest boxes", and "management of grassland to enhance barn owl foraging resource".
Other measures include plans for the creation of a "dedicated (and permanent) barn owl nesting space in the rebuilt stables", "buffers between development and woodland habitat", "introduction of woodland management", "habitat creation to benefit dormice", and a "dormice nest box scheme".
In his letter, which will be considered as part of the planning process, Mr Mager raised concerns about the location of parts of the development intruding on an ecological buffer zone.
He said: "However it would appear that the proposed development needs to repositioned to enable even the minimum buffer distances to be met. The access road, a number of lodges, some proposed infrastructure and cut and fill operations all fall well within the minimum 20m buffer from the Mor Brook. A number of lodges also seem to be in close proximity to existing habitat suitable for dormice."
Mr Mager has also asked for consideration to be given to natural drainage options for the site.
He said: "We would also suggest that, rather than the underground attenuation proposed, more natural sustainable drainage systems solutions are considered. These could potentially be located within the recommended buffer zones and would certainly contribute more to biodiversity than the underground options. The new ponds shown in the landscape plan should be designed and managed to maximise biodiversity benefit and provide newt habitat."
The letter also calls for monitoring of the conditions raised in the proposal.
Mr Mager said: "To ensure the desired biodiversity protection and gains are delivered a biodiversity management plan should be agreed, delivered and monitored. A qualified ecologist should provide compliance reports to confirm the actions (and conditions) have been suitably discharged."
The plans for the redevelopment of the Astbury site include building around 275 lodges, as well as a leisure and spa building, two swimming pools, a farm shop, a function room, restaurant and spa, an outdoor lido pool, tennis courts, bowling greens, a new nine-hole golf course, and an 18-hole putting green.
The proposal has been backed by Bridgnorth's Chamber of Commerce and will create around 120 jobs directly at the site.
It is estimated that the knock-on economic effect could lead to the creation of another 330 jobs in the surrounding area.