‘Ecological disaster’: Campaigner’s wildlife concerns if controversial spine road given go-ahead

A campaigner is concerned that wildlife will be forced to flee across busy roads if a controversial spine road is built.

Judith Maunder is worried about the potential damage to the environment of a road through Mandale Meadow as part of the Stainsby Country Park plans.

She said: “It absolutely appals me that so much green space is going under concrete.

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“We are going to lose so much, probably before we even know it’s there. Where does it move on to?

“There is nowhere else for it to move to, we have got the A19, A66, A174, and Mandale Road which is busy so they are actually cornered into that piece of land, there is nowhere else for them to go.

“Then the patch gets smaller, you’re also going to get more people and dogs squashed into a small piece of land causing unintentional damage.

“We have had deer flushed out of the woodland because of dogs running through.

“I am not saying people shouldn’t have their dogs there, but once you get a smaller and smaller piece of land there and more and more people using it, you threaten the land and the life on it.”

Judith has been working with fellow Greenstuff Middlesbrough campaigner Martyn Walker to send letters protesting the spine road to Middlesbrough Council – so far they have collected more than 1,100.

Greenstuff Middlesbrough campaigner Judith Maunder

Judith went on to add: “The [spine] road is going to put a lot of species under threat.

“Hedgehogs, toads, and frogs, everything that would move around at night especially.

“The only way they can escape it is to run across one of those roads and where are they going to find territory elsewhere? They really are putting wildlife under a lot of stress.

“There is no way toads, frogs, or hedgehogs are going to be escaping highways. It’s going to be an ecological disaster.”

Middlesbrough Council has previously stated that, while Mandale Meadow is not a designated Local Wildlife Site, any planning application which affects it will require an accompanying ecological assessment.

Mandala Meadow
Mandala Meadow

There have been two environmental impact assessment (EIA) screening opinion requests submitted to the council for land in the Stainsby Country Park area.

This is one of the first steps in the planning process to acquire permission for a new development.

An EIA is required if a project is going to cause significant environmental effects.

One of the applications for houses at the Stainsby Country Park was lodged by property company Savills, on behalf of Avant Homes and Miller Homes, who are looking to build up to 600 properties.

The council’s decision notice states: “The inclusion of the Country Park, green corridors throughout the development, and the use of SUDs for the drainage, provide ample opportunity to mitigate and enhance any impact on ecology on the site.

“With this in mind, the proposals should be able to mitigate for any potential harmful effects on biodiversity.”

It concludes: “It is considered unlikely to have significant effects on the environment. Accordingly, I would confirm that an environmental impact assessment is not required in this case.”

A full planning application for this site is expected soon and the council’s decision notice states that this will need to include “various ecological and environmental assessments, including preliminary ecological assessment, bat survey, arboricultural assessment, and a great crested newt survey (which was included in the EIA Screening request).”

Another EIA screening request was submitted by Story Homes for up to 800 houses, a village hall, and a primary school at Stainsby Hall North, which is still awaiting a decision.

This application is for the development furthest north in the country park plans bordering on the longest stretch of Mandale Meadow, while the Avant Homes and Miller Homes section is directly below.

Stainsby Country Park
Stainsby Country Park

As part of its submission, Story Homes states that the development will provide a net gain to biodiversity.

A letter from Lichfields, on behalf of Story Homes, to the council, states: “The main site area for the housing is relatively flat arable fields with some native hedgerows and a low number of small trees along the internal field boundaries, so overall relatively few landscape features will be lost, with the exception of the northern access road route which has to cross Bluebell Beck so some losses there are inevitable.”

Andy Preston has previously said that he is looking into whether the spine road is necessary.

At a council meeting in September last year, Mr Preston said: “I would like to see the housing built, I think it would be good for Middlesbrough, I don’t think it would damage our environment.

“But I am not ready and I don’t think the exec team is ready to explicitly endorse the building of a new road through a greenfield site until we are certain that it’s absolutely necessary.

“I have asked for more info and if that takes a week, a month or a year so be it.”

Artist impression of the Stainsby country park proposals
Artist impression of the Stainsby country park proposals

In the Stainsby Country Park master plan, which is yet to be approved by the council’s executive because of the controversy of the spine road, it states that it intends for the park to be accredited as a Natural England Country Park to protect it from future development.

It also suggests that the country park will include 74 hectares of green space with 800 ornamental street trees and parkland trees, 300 fruit trees, more than 100 hedgerow trees, 16,000 – 24,000 hedging plants, and 18,000 – 25,000 native trees and shrubs,

The homes that are part of the country park will bring in extra council tax income for the local authority and will be in a higher band than the majority of properties in Middlesbrough which fall towards the lower two bands.

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