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Homes plan a threat to wildlife

Photographer among those to criticise earmarked homes, some of which would lie on flood plain

Keen wildlife photographer Alex Berryman is concerned about the impact the proposed development could have on wildlife

Wildlife campaigners are fighting plans to build 193 homes on fields in Fleet.

Leatherhead-based Berkeley Homes (Southern) wants to build the houses, along with a new leisure centre and sports pitches, on land south of the Edenbrook development in Hitches Lane, Fleet.

But objectors warn the homes, 70 of which would be on the floodplain, will ruin the rich wildlife on the site.

Among those objecting is 16-year-old Alex Berryman, a keen wildlife photographer from Fleet.

He warned, the ‘unsustainable’ development proposals risk disrupting one of the region’s most important areas for wildlife.

“The current country park not only provides an important greenspace for residents of Fleet and beyond to enjoy, but also acts as an important refuge for local wildlife, many of which are of significance on a national scale. This in turn offers enjoyment to many, including myself.

“As a local photographer, I find it upsetting that such proposals are submitted with little thought for the potential implications of the development.”

Over the past two years, Mr Berryman has recorded his wildlife sightings on the site and submitted them to organisations such as the British Dragonfly Society, which has acknowledged the site as being of significance.

Mr Berryman has recorded more than 140 species of bird, including water rail, cetti’s warbler, cuckoo, little ringed plover and kingfisher.

He said the site provides a unique refuge in what is becoming an increasingly urban area and added the proposed 200 parking spaces, along with the 193 homes, are ‘unsustainable and poorly considered’.

Mr Berryman said he found it ‘somewhat bizarre’ that the ecological study carried out in an attempt to assess the potential impact of the development, is so ‘greatly flawed’ in its ornithological aspects. He claims no survey was carried out to measure the importance of wintering birds. He said dragonflies are also of significance on the site and in 2013, small red-eyed damselflies occurred in relatively abundant numbers.

“All of this is threatened by the current proposals,” warned Mr Berryman. “Perhaps more concerning is the proposal to construct an additional 193 homes, 70 of which are on the floodplain, and which will cover what is currently an amenity area.

“This housing is highly unsustainable and not only puts the site’s wildlife at risk, but also the residents of the houses.”

Mr Berryman has submitted a photograph of the country park covered in more than two feet of water following heavy rain.

“It seems inconceivable to me that permission could be given to an area that is clearly of high flood risk,” he added.

Fleet Town Council has slammed the proposal as a ‘wholly unsustainable development’ and pointed out the first phase of the Edenbrook development has already proved to be in social and economic isolation from Fleet.

Winchfield Parish Council has also objected, warning an extension to Edenbrook would bring the coalescence of Fleet with Winchfield, Dogmersfield and Crookham Village another step closer.

Berkeley Homes said its ambition was to make the new development, to be known as Edenbrook Village, a ‘high quality neighbourhood with a distinctive character and a strong sense of community’ on the outskirts of Fleet.

It added that as much as possible, homes will overlook green spaces and wherever possible, views to the country park and countryside beyond will be maximised.

The first phase of development would include 34 homes, along with 50 extra care flats, and be built by 2016.

Phase two would deliver 62 houses as well as some open space by 2017, while the third phase would deliver 47 houses and open space by 2018.

The timetable for the country park and leisure facilities is still to be determined.

 

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