Cole Green wildlife sanctuary destroyed ahead of housing development

The wildlife sanctuary at Cole Green tip has been devastated ahead of a future housing development.

The wildlife sanctuary at Cole Green tip has been devastated ahead of a future housing development. - Credit: David Martens

A nature lover has condemned the devastation of a wildlife sanctuary as part of actions to transform the area ahead of a proposed housing development.

David Martens is a regular visitor to Cole Green tip - bordered by the B195 Black Fan Road, A414 and Holwell Hyde Lane near Welwyn Garden City - which has been earmarked for 2,650 homes as part of Birchall Garden Suburb (BGS) by owners Tarmac Ltd.

He has been a daily visitor to this hidden natural refuge for years: "This piece of almost forgotten grassland used to be a landfill site, but has over the years has become an amazing refuge for the most wonderful birds, flowers and all manner of insects, butterflies, bees and moths as well as toads and probably a lot more that has gone unnoticed."

But then a few weeks ago the site was largely destroyed by contractors: "The swaying grassland was cut down to a minimum, anthills were destroyed, dog rose, blackthorn, hawthorn scrub cut down to nothing.

"The large numbers of skylarks who had established territories and were in the early stages of breeding, possibly even sitting on eggs, had their nests destroyed by this thoughtless activity.

The wildlife sanctuary at Cole Green tip has been devastated ahead of a future housing development.

The wildlife sanctuary at Cole Green tip has been devastated ahead of a future housing development. - Credit: David Martens

"The snipe who over-wintered in the muddy pools and the boggy grassland were made to take flight and abandon the area and the beautiful barn owl that relied on the grassland to feed on voles has gone.

"The operatives who cut this wonderful grassland must have noticed the skylarks rising up in front of them in panic and snipe taking flight but they carried on, cutting and destroying their nests and refuges with no care or thought!"

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As part of BGS, the former wasteland will be replaced with parkland surrounded by housing and other amenities, to which David responded: "The influx of large numbers of people, dogs and litter, and the proposal to plant trees over large parts of the site, will basically sign the death knell for skylarks, owls, snipe, passage wheatears, stonechat whinchat, ring ouzel, meadow pipits and many more.

"If left alone this site will recover, but if the developers landscape and manicure large areas, dissect it with footpaths and surround it with housing, it is doomed! So many special and rare birds rely on this bit of brownfield land to survive! These plans will destroy this special habitat.

"It has taken years to develop to what it is now. Any large-scale landscaping will destroy this in an instant. If the developers must do something to it, then give it nature reserve status and protection and let it remain the peaceful beautiful open grassland environment that it is now."

The wildlife sanctuary at Cole Green tip has been devastated ahead of a future housing development.

The wildlife sanctuary at Cole Green tip has been devastated ahead of a future housing development. - Credit: David Martens

A spokesperson for the BGS Group said: "The plans [for Birchall Garden Suburb] echo the original Garden City principles laid out by Ebenezer Howard and have been developed following 12 years of extensive public and stakeholder engagement.

"Birchall Garden is allocated for development in the adopted East Herts District Plan and is included in the draft Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan.

"Birchall Common, the central feature of the proposals, will provide 76 hectares of public parkland, around one and a half times the size of Stanborough Park and four times the size of the area required to meet the relevant council’s open space standards.

"Birchall Common will be country parkland, offering something different to the more formal and more closely managed sports and play areas at Moneyhole Lane Park, with a more natural environment for wildlife and country walks.

"Cole Green is currently self-set grassland, and through the Birchall Garden Suburb proposal a community led stewardship programme will be set up to support the ongoing management of Birchall Common, ensuring the space supports and enhances natural habitats."