I submit this objection on behalf of conservation and heritage group The Friends of Eston Hills. We feel the development proposed for this location is not vital but the location itself is vital for the ongoing success of the adjoining Flatts Lane Country Park.
The proposed site comprises ancient hedgerows, pockets of mature trees and agricultural land that has not been cultivated in decades. As it reverted to bush and scrub, it became increasingly important as wildlife habitat. When the Country Park opened in the 90s, it became an important buffer separating the park from the heavily urbanised, industrial sprawl of Teesside just beyond the A174. With careful conservation work over the years, the two sites combined have been able to support a population of Roe Deer as well as accommodate the public, dog walkers and horse riders etc.
To now build on this habitat and right beside the park would be hugely detrimental to a conservation success story at the very edge of urban Teesside. An estate of 400 houses would mean around 1600 people and 800 cars and innumerable cats and dogs. It would destroy any sense that the Country Park was 'in the country'. Along with direct habitat loss, it's close proximity would mean permanent disturbance to wildlife in the park. The documents making up the applicants environmental and wild life statement itself, in several sections, identifies threats to local colonies of wild life, including colonies of Great Crested Newts. The Deer will be affected and could disappear. They along with badger, fox and hare all have a comfort zone with people and need space in which to flee especially from dogs.
The enhancements to the park proposed by the developer as a means to offset the environmental impact would be wholly negated by the development itself. It is absurd to claim that building a housing estate upon wildlife habitat and beside a conservation area will enhance it. Their claim that visitor numbers to the park could increase from 20,000 to 100,000 would actually be a disaster given that the total site will have been significantly reduced and would also have 1600 people permanently living on it.
The value of this green space to the park, to wildlife and local community far exceeds the financial benefits that the developer claims would result. Nature conservation is forever and people will increasingly need this place as a convenient and accessible place to find temporary escape into nature as more building takes place across Greater Eston and East Middlesbrough.
After considering the proposal, we have no confidence it will be beneficial to the environment, the Country Park or the local town. We also have no confidence in the developer's green credentials. This is due to comments made to the public that work carried out on the site prior to the proposal being announced was for "agricultural purposes" and "not for housing". Sending in heavy plant soon after to controversially tear down many mature trees, raze all the bush and scrub as well as bury long-established ponds says it all. This was unnecessary, carried out during bird nesting season and with no planning permission for any development whatsoever.
Since the Teesside Survey and Plan of 1968, County level structure plans, successive local plans, the Regional Spatial Strategy and the existing Local Development Framework, the A174 has been a recognised and defined boundary to large scale housing development. The local authority's emerging Local Plan, now out for statutory consultation, does not designate the site for development. We are concerned that if the A174 is breached here it could well lead to a domino effect of further developments right along the bottom of our beloved Eston hills. The proposals for Flatts Lane were unveiled just days after 320 houses were approved to the immediate west of the site at Ormesby. This decision made by the Government Inspectorate flew in the face of the Council planning committee and substantial objections from the local community. Add the Ormesby development to that proposed for Flatts Lane and you become acutely aware of how much habitat stands to be lost; and how important it is to save Flatts Lane.
Also, we have concerns about the impact that the development will have on the wider infrastructure:
i) The drainage of residential areas to the immediate North of the site has increasingly failed to cope with extreme rainfall in recent years. The loss of such a vast area of natural soak away will only exacerbate the problem as the climate continues to change.
ii) There are concerns of worsening traffic congestion with 800 more cars on Flatts Lane along with those to come from estates currently being built in Guisborough.
iii) There are concerns that the local school system, already heavily subscribed, could not accommodate another 800 children.
iv) There are concerns about the pylons and power lines that cross the site and the health risks associated with living close to them. Should we be building houses near them?
Lastly, should the planning application be subsequently rejected by the Council Planning Committee and the applicant exercises the right to appeal, we would ask that due to the significance of the application to the overall area of the Eston Hills, that any such appeal should be by public inquiry and not by written representations.
Friends of Eston Hills