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Former Shropshire airfield could be turned into sales site despite butterfly fears

By Keri Trigg | Whitchurch | News | Published: | Last Updated:

A former Shropshire airfield could be converted into a vehicle and machinery sales site, despite fears it may pose a risk to a nearby rare butterfly habitat.

The silver-studded blue butterfly

Malcolm Harrison Auctions Ltd has applied to convert the land, in Higher Heath, into a “commercial vehicle and plant auction site” with customer parking and offices.

Butterfly Conservation, the charity that has owned and managed the neighbouring Prees Heath Common nature reserve and site of special scientific interest since 2006, objects. In its submission it pointed out the Market Drayton-based company already owns a site on its west side, which generates “unacceptable amounts of litter”.

Shropshire Council’s Northern Planning Committee will discuss the application on Tuesday, July 21. Planning officers recommend they approve.

A report for the committee says the land, which formed part of Tilstock Airfield and lies to the south of Prees Heath Common, currently has planning permission for storage purposes.

Prees Parish Council objected to the change-of-use application, opposing the “increasing industrialisation of an area so close to an SSSI of national significance”. Whitchurch Rural Parish Council also objected, saying the Local Plan designated other sites around Whitchurch that “would be more appropriate for this application”.

Butterfly Conservation’s response said the reserve “provides sanctuary for the silver-studded blue butterfly, in its last remaining site in the Midlands, which is now increasing in number on the reserve, as well as supporting a range of heathland wildlife of conversation significance at county level”.

Mitigation

It added: “The applicant’s current auction site on the western side of the reserve already produces unacceptable amounts of litter on the reserve, despite the fact that there is a security fence between our land and the auction site.

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“This consists mainly of polystyrene cups, crisp packets, paper and auction lot tickets containing the words ‘Malcolm Harrison Auctions’ which our volunteers regularly have to clear up.

“Mr Harrison and his staff have been asked to either prevent the litter coming onto the reserve in the first place or clear it up themselves, but the situation has not improved.”

In an updated statement, submitted in the spring, Butterfly Conservation maintained its objection but welcomed the addition of a bund with a fence on top which, it said, would “significantly curtail the spread of litter”.

The officers’ report says parts of the former airfield have been sold and used for commercial activities in the past.

Natural England did not object to the proposal when consulted, it adds, provided a “buffer” area is included separating the auction site from the SSSI. It adds that a condition can be added to the planning permission agreement requiring the company to “regularly remove litter from an area 20 metres to the north of the site”.

“The applicant has provided mitigation measures which, when used in conjunction with the recommended conditions, would enable the business to operate without detriment to the residents of the area, the wildlife and the highway network,” the report concludes.

Keri Trigg

By Keri Trigg
Reporter - @KeriTrigg_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Shropshire.

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