A letter published in the Review August 2014
In the Review Councillor Bruce Hogan says the Northern Quarter ecology is not typical of the rest of the Forest of Dean and he is right which makes it even more special and worthy of conserving. He goes on to say how fragile it is and one should respect the fragility of what's there. Nothing wrong with that either, although having seen the mud and damaged grassland in May after the ground investigations one can hardly imagine the ecological damage if building ever starts.
Mr Hogan's comment is incorrect as it is a snapshot of today, not relating to the wildlife over time. Not so many years ago it was typical of other sites in the Dean. The wildlife groups have been recording consistently around the Forest since the early 1980s and have records of the rarer butterflies being much more widespread and common then. Fifteen years ago the Northern Quarter was one of a number of sites such as Shakemantle, Lightmoor and Foxes Bridge which were all equally good for wildlife but have gradually scrubbed over leaving the Northern Quarter as the last wildlife hotspot in the Cinderford basin.
The Northern Quarter is the Noahs Ark of the Forest, it contains over 1300 wildlife species with a number of these including moths and dragonflies found nowhere else in the forest. 152 species of moth have been recorded in one night and a considerable proportion of the UK population of Lesser Horseshoe bats are breeding there on a designated Key Wildlife Site. How can the Northern Quarter have ever been considered for development with this wildlife jewel in it's midst. It was because an Environmental Assessment was not undertaken by the Council when they first considered the site and they have been playing catchup ever since.
Brownfield sites have had rather a bad name recently with the inference that they are only good for redevelopment. They have mostly been left to wildlife with little management or human interference. Their minimal topsoil means grasses and other fast growing plants cannot develop. Some sites have developed a fantastic insect rich sward out of slow growing plants and wild flowers such as at the
Northern Quarter. Surely an Ark worth saving.
Simon Glover August 2014
Letter to The Forester
CNQ: Wrong development - wrong place
If we are to believe the Cinderford Northern Quarter’s spin machine (aka Cinderford Regeneration board), then the proposed development at Steam Mills will undoubtedly restore full employment and bring about world peace. The latest claim that a CNQ-inspired “biking boom” could “boost our economy” is both ridiculous and facile. We all want and need more quality jobs in the Forest, but this isn’t the way to deliver it.
The Cinderford Northern Quarter proposal, although well-intentioned is a vanity project that seriously threatens wildlife, will lead to a decrease in college provision, gives us another hotel with no clear market, and gives dubious claims to job creation. Coupled with the numerous historical pit workings in the area increasing risk of subsidence/collapse it can be summarized thus:- Wrong development in the wrong place.
Forest of Dean Green Party
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
I HAVE heard councillors and others say the wildlife can relocate and that there was no uproar when the Valley Road Industrial estate was built.
At that time before foot and mouth and the loss of sheep grazing from the Soudley Valley and Cinderford Linear Park there were a number of good wildlife sites all making multiple interlinked colonies of habitats which are now very much degraded due to habitat change brought on by lack of sheep grazing.
In open areas of the Forest where there has been no grazing for a dozen or more years you now have three-metre high ash and alder with an understorey of brambles and bracken where there was once open space or easily walked paths.
Habitat loss has also happened on many old mining and industrial sites such as Lightmoor, Shakemantle, Foxes Bridge and Bilson Halt which have all suffered to various degrees from the effects of habitat change brought on by lack of grazing.
The Northern Quarter because of it’s poor soils, numerous ponds and regular clay extraction has remained as the one beacon for habitat-specific wildlife in the Cinderford basin.
It is the last place that is such a hotspot for wildlife.
There is such an outcry from all the environmental and heritage groups because they realise what we would lose if the Northern Quarter site is built upon.
The loss of wildlife habitat which took decades to develop would be so great that there is likely to be a considerable loss of species in spite of any mitigation put forward.
For example the site has a newly established colony of wood white butterfly where the latest spine road position is planned.
This is one of the UK’s fastest declining species with only fifty sites left in existence so concreting over its breeding site is not going to help its survival.
The Northern Quarter has many mature habitats in a small area which is why it contains over 1,300 species of wildlife as recorded by the wildlife groups over the last few years.
There are other sites actually in Cinderford that need developing and improving rather than a large project a mile down the road which will destroy one of the reasons that makes Cinderford unique.
The council should be embracing this fantastic resource of wildlife on their doorstep rather than adding to the species loss.
It takes a little effort to visit the Steam Mills ponds area and grassland but it is worth it to get away from the modern world and spend a summer’s day with the place alive with the hum of insects.
Unfortunately our current council does not see it this way.
Having spent 25 years wildlife recording in the Dean and seeing the massive reduction in species over that time I think it will be a sad day when our children do not have the chance to see a wood white or a pearl bordered fritillary if they want to on their doorstep.
What right do we have to deprive them of the opportunity and make the world a greyer place by driving a spine road through its heart. – Simon Glover, Two Bridges.
Letter in the Forester and Review w/c16/11/15
The importance of the Northern Quarter as a wildlife oasis and potential tourist destination has been overlooked recently with all the attention on other planning and finance issues. There have been some remarkable statistics produced by the ecologists working for the Council recently which deserve a wider audience.
You will have read in the press how the Dean Natural Alliance (DNA) have been undertaking the species assessment on the Northern Quarter site which the Council should have undertaken themselves before bringing forward the site for planning consideration. Over the past 3 years the number of different species recorded has increased from a few hundred to approaching 2000. This is an indicator of a well balanced environment by having many species exploiting a number of interlinked habitats.
The Council and their ecologists have been trapping Newts and Reptiles from within the fenced development area for over a year now and the quantity removed is quite remarkable. Up until September 2015 the councils own statistics show that 20,293 (Yes over twenty thousand) individual amphibians and reptiles had been captured and many released on other parts of the Linear Park which already held existing colonies which will now be stressed by over population.
One release area near the Wildlife Trust Laymore Quag Reserve holds the only Gloucestershire colony of The Clouded Buff moth and the rare Forester Moth. Both these have disappeared since the release of the amphibians, is this a co-incidence? perhaps, but hundreds if not thousands of additional predators can easily have eaten the larval stages of these rare insects.
The Northern Quarter is unique in the forest for holding such biological abundance, not only in species recorded but also in actual numbers of individual animals present as shown by the Councils own statistics.
Surely the Council can see that this is an asset to be cherished, especially as it is the Council itself that commissioned the Linear Park in the first place with public money. In any other situation they would be applauded for their far reaching vision for nature conservation and public recreation and would not be desecrating this increasingly important wildlife area. Development of derelict land within Cinderford would see the Linear Park surviving intact and bring employment to the town.
Dean Natural Alliance