Final plea to save precious habitat ahead of King's Lynn housing scheme debate
Environmental campaigners have made a final plea to stop the development of hundreds of new homes in Gaywood.
Extinction Rebellion activists protested at the Parkway site on Saturday, days before a decision is due to be made on whether the West Norfolk Council-submitted scheme should be allowed to proceed.
And a heritage group says officials, who advise approval subject to legal agreements, “have not given an inch on their ideas” for the site.
Almost 380 new homes, plus a bridge linking the area to the Hardwick industrial estate, are proposed in the multi-million pound scheme.
A supporting case for the application, reported in papers for a special planning committee meeting which will consider the plan this Thursday, said: “The importance of addressing the need for new homes in the borough is greater than ever in these increasingly challenging times.
“Recent months have shown the value of strong community networks and the need to focus on boosting the well-being of our local communities. Well-designed homes in the right place are key to achieving this.”
But objectors argue the application is likely to destroy vital habitats in an area described in an online petition signed by more than 2,600 people as the “last truly wild place” in Lynn.
Around 20 XR supporters took part in the weekend’s protest at the site, where they say dozens of healthy mature trees, as well as vital habitats for the endangered water vole will be lost.
The group said: “It will cause a loss of wildlife, loss of flood protection, loss of carbon sequestration and more pressure on Reffley Wood. The Norfolk Wildlife Trust says that the site has the potential to become an Urban Nature Reserve.”
But the council has, so far, rejected critics’ fears about the potential environmental impact of the scheme, arguing that “substantial areas of green infrastructure” will be provided if the application goes ahead.
However, the Lynn Civic Society says the number of homes built should be roughly halved in order to create a woodland park and preserve existing cycle lanes.
It said: “In 20 years’ time, precisely nobody will regret 200 additional houses were not squeezed on to this site.
"But the entire community could celebrate that this reduced scheme marked a turning point in the way BCKLWN approached sustainable planning and housing delivery in the 21st century.”
Officers said the loss of some habitat as a result of the scheme could not be denied.
But they insisted: “Key green infrastructure features are still being retained.
“In addition to the provision of substantial areas of public open space and improvements to the relocated equipped play area and MUGA facility, a financial contribution of £150,000 towards off-site habitat creation / tree planting would be secured in addition to ecological enhancements and replacement tree planting on-site, which will be secured by condition.”
This week's debate was arranged after a decision on the scheme was deferred last month, amid claims that the council had breached rules relating to the amount of time allowed between the publication of papers for the meeting and the debate taking place.