Body blow for Middlewick campaigners as Colchester Local Plan found sound
Some 1,000 houses could be built at Middlewick Ranges after planning inspectors found Colchester Borough Council’s emerging Local Plan ‘sound’.
Campaigners have battled hard to save “the green lungs of Colchester, but the Planning Inspectorate’s conclusion on the Plan, which allocates the 215-acre site for some 1,000 properties, community activities and open space, comes as a body blow.
The next stage of the process will see the Plan presented to the Local Plan committee on Monday, June 13, before it goes to the full council.
Middlewick Ranges, known locally as The Wick, is owned by the Ministry of Defence, which plans to sell it when it shifts its firing operations to Fingringhoe.
More than a thousand protests – including an objection from local MP Will Quince – were raised against development of The Wick, with particular criticism of the manner in which the MoD appears to have invented ecological rules to allow it to be developed.
Much of the site comprises acid grassland, which hosts a rich array of flora and should be theoretically protected by a biodiversity metric produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The Save the Middlewick Ranges group says the metric score is too high to permit development so the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, the MoD’s property arm, simply invented its own.
This “bespoke metric” has reportedly been agreed with the borough council.
Should the acid grassland be developed, it must be ‘replaced’ by the creation of new, similar habitat. The way in which this is proposed to be done – through adding sulphur into nearby farmland – has sparked further alarm.
Save the Middlewick Ranges believes that some of the sulphur will ultimately drain via a brook into Colne Marshes, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. We share their concern…