A petition to stop the council stripping part of a Solihull beauty spot of its Local Nature Reserve (LNR) status has attracted 800 signatures.
Coun Debbie Evans (UKIP, Kingshurst and Fordbridge) has launched a campaign against plans to ‘re-define’ the LNR status of Babbs Mill to make way for a new housing development on the site.
Solihull Council, working alongside Natural England, said nearly two hectares of the 24 hectares of land need to be removed from the LNR status to make way for a housing development in 2018.
But Coun Evans said she is against any removal of the LNR from Babbs Mill.
“I don’t feel as if residents have been properly consulted on this,” Coun Evans said. “Babbs Mill is well used by local residents and children and we want it preserved – we don’t want any of it taken away. We have started a petition against the removal of the LNR and against the plans for new housing on the site.
“Apparently the designation of nature reserve means nothing to this council and Natural England.”
To qualify for LNR status, a site must be of importance for wildlife, geology, education or public enjoyment.
“Once an area is defined as an LNR, it makes it harder for developers to build on the land.
Coun Ian Courts, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Land said: “Babbs Mill Local Nature Reserve (LNR) consists of 24 hectares of land and 1.98 hectares are earmarked for a housing site as part of the Council’s Local Plan.
“To progress the Plan, Babbs Mill will need to be de-declared as a LNR with Natural England and then re-declared excluding the 1.98 hectares although this has not yet happened.
“The independent inspector who examined the draft Local Plan concluded that the loss of less than two hectares of the LNR would not seriously erode its nature conservation value, particularly with the compensatory green space and biodiversity enhancements envisaged.
“The inspector also noted that both Natural England and the Environment Agency are content with the housing allocation.
“The site is a phase one development site of the Local Plan with the intention that development will begin by 2018.
“The Local Plan aims to promote economic and job growth in the borough and provide for new housing to meet the borough’s needs, as well as land for other activities including retail, sport and leisure.”