Mushrooms row over land for homes
A bid to protect fields earmarked for 470 houses because of rare mushrooms looks set to be rejected by a council.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) wants plans for the two developments at Station Road, Newport, put on hold while surveys are carried out to check for the presence of waxcap mushrooms – which come in a number of varieties and qualify for protected status in some areas.
It comes after the organisation started the process of designating the area as a 'local wildlife site'.
The plans for 350 homes and extra care housing at land east and west of Station Road were approved by committee on June 24, 2015. The proposal for 120 homes on Land South of Springfield Industrial Estate, Station Road, was approved on August 30, last year.
However, a report prepared for Telford & Wrekin planning committee says that between the granting of planning permission and the issuing of the official decision notice SWT told the council it had designated the land as a local wildlife site due to the presence of wax cap mushrooms and asked for the council’s “observations”.
In response the council said it had "concerns" about the process taken to designate the area, and the evidence it was based on.
John Hughes, development manager at SWT, said the organisation was seeking to protect green space, but agreed on the need for more evidence and wants a survey to be carried out in autumn.
He said: "Waxcap mushrooms are a really good indicator recognised at a national level where if you get a certain number of species it suggest this is an old unfertilised quite important meadow.
"It is not just about the fungi, it is about the wildlife associated with it. It is not necessarily visible but that does not mean it is not important."
He added: "What we need for a major planning application is to have all the information available to make the best decision so we need to make sure the area is surveyed in autumn when the fungi is showing.
"Let's get good information on this and then make a proper decision which is so often what local authorities will say."
Mr Hughes said SWT is also worried about the level of development in Newport and the loss of green space.
He said: "We are really concerned about the development in Newport and the complete lack of high quality public green space for the people of Newport to go and enjoy wildlife and nature, and the benefits that brings. We currently have grave concerns about development in Newport. The people of Newport deserve better than living in a concrete jungle."
A report that was being considered by Telford & Wrekin's planning committee this evening, is critical of the SWT approach and says the authority should grant planning consent.
It states that "proper process has not been followed", there was a "failure to engage with the council as landowner", and that the "process has lacked transparency, independence and rigour".
The report adds: "Officers are satisfied that little or no weight can be given to the site being made a ‘candidate’ site for designation as a local wildlife site due to faulty procedure."