Forest of Dean regeneration area is Key Wildlife Site

A site in the Forest of Dean considered for development has been designated a Key Wildlife Site.

It comes as the area district council is due to consider an application to build a road through the old Northern United colliery site in Cinderford.

A panel of wildlife experts believes the area of land is one of the best sites in Gloucestershire for wildlife.

The council said it was "very much aware" of the importance of the site in ecological terms.

The designation was made by a Site Selection Panel which is made up of representatives from local authorities, Natural England and ecologists.

'Haven for wildlife'

It does not have any legal bearing but Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust believes it gives due recognition to the significance of the area.

It comes ahead of consideration by the authority, of the planning application, next month.

Dr Colin Studholme, from the wildlife trust, said: "It is wrong that the council should be about to determine this planning application - even in outline - when the ecology master plan for the site has not yet been produced as promised.

"We have submitted our objection to the council and would urge anyone concerned about the future of this site to object too.

"The site has been regenerated very well by nature and has become a haven for wildlife and a place much loved by local people."

Exploratory work was halted earlier this month by police investigating allegations the habitat of protected species may have been disturbed.

However, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), which owns the site, is expecting work to restart again soon.

'Impact on bats'

The deep mining colliery closed in 1965 and is now one of four 'priority investment areas' identified by the Cinderford Regeneration Board.

Image caption The colliery closed on Christmas eve in 1965

Pete Williams, of the district council, said all views would be taken into consideration and any decisions made would have "full regard to the implications for wildlife".

He added that it was the council which had asked for an Environmental Statement to deal with the potential impact on bat species at the site.

The HCA is currently planning the design and infrastructure needed to bring in potential employers to the site.

Its spokesman David Warburton said the government body takes environmental responsibilities "very seriously".

He said: "At the Northern United site we are taking all necessary measures to protect wildlife around the development area.

"We have also had an ecologist on the site while initial work takes place to provide the extra assurance that we fully comply with legal and regulatory obligations."

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