An alternative vision for the Matlock Wolds

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By Lewis Townsend
20th September 2021

The Matlock Wolds, valuable greenfield land in Derbyshire, is under threat from a large housing development. Local campaigners have commissioned a report which puts the site’s ecological value beyond any doubt. Here’s our take on the report, which highlights the importance of biodiversity and climate change mitigation in planning.

The report has been commissioned by the Wolds Action Group, a community group in Matlock which has been fighting to prevent development of the large site adjacent to Matlock Moor for more than five years, firstly to try to prevent the site being allocated for housing in the Derbyshire Dales Local Plan, and then, once that battle was lost, to oppose the planning application submitted by the developer.

CPRE Derbyshire opposed the inclusion of the site in the Local Plan, and has submitted an objection to the developers’ planning application.  The application is for 430 houses and a local centre, as well as an urban park. The site is of high landscape and wildlife value, is visible from distant viewpoints, and is prone to causing flooding from run-off.

You can view the rewilding report in full here, and here’s our take…

Flooding

The Holistic Restoration report highlights the site’s importance in mitigating the effects of flooding and preventing run-off further down the hill, i.e. into the River Derwent, which flows through Matlock. It also features some detail about the ecology of the site: a mix of trees, hedges, wet grassland and ‘flush’ (areas where underground water seeps onto the surface and causes small areas of wetland).  All of these components are important in retaining water on site and preventing it going anywhere else, which Natural England has highlighted as very important. The ecological value of these areas is irrefutable.

Finally, the report stresses that development on the site would increase flooding to the south, where the town of Matlock lies, and will have a detrimental impact on protected species.  They put forward an alternative vision (with no housing – just enhanced ecology!) that would enhance wildlife value and contribute positively to mitigating climate change.

Wildlife

The report lists bird, mammal, reptile and flower species that have been recorded on the site.  These include both Amber and Red list species, (i.e. those that are protected and in some cases, endangered).  These include bird species such as redwing, fieldfare, marsh tit and both mistle and song thrushes. Four species of bats have also been recorded, and all bats are Priority Species under various legislation.

The report also highlights the fact that the developer’s wildlife surveys are incomplete and inadequate. No invertebrate survey has been carried out.  Other surveys have either been carried out at times of year when there is likely to be less wildlife anyway, or are out of date.

Our view:

It’s clear that ecological reports like this prove the increasing importance of biodiversity and climate change mitigation when it comes to assessing planning applications. Those requirements have been given more emphasis in the National Planning Policy Framework and are likely to be enshrined in the upcoming Environment Bill.  Developers need to up their game on biodiversity assessments submitted with planning applications and will be under pressure to show how the development will increase biodiversity (by 10%, according to the Environment Bill as drafted).  They will also have to show effective climate-change mitigation measures – the lack of those is one of the things we criticised in our response to the planning application on the Wolds site.

We’d like to thank the Wolds Action / Save Our Greenfields Group for sharing their report with us, and we’ll be supporting their campaign as much as we can.