Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Save Birds Marsh Wood

A leaflet has just dropped through my door - it's designed to look as if it came from the council. A community newsletter it says, telling me of an exciting new development of family homes and affordable housing. It has pictures of nearby Birds Marsh Wood, bluebells in spring sunlight - the proposals will improve its ecological value and protect it for continued recreational blah, blah, blah...

And it's all bollocks. Or at least it's not what it purports to be. For the leaflet, carefully worded and printed in council green, is actually from the North Chippenham Consortium - which is actually, Barratt Developments  Persimmon Homes and Heron Land Developments - which are profit seeking companies that don't give a stuff about our local environment and think it's acceptable to con us into thinking otherwise.

Birds Marsh, by the way, is a small unspoilt area of mixed woodland, surrounded by fields and for hundreds of years loved by the locals - it's one of those spots that's very ordinariness is what makes it special. It's also a County Wildlife site and has a friends society to help keep it that way.

Which is interesting because the leaflet says they've been consulted - it just omits that the friends object strenuously. It says too that the development proposes a buffer of green open space to protect the wood - what this actually means is that they will stop building just before they reach the trees, reducing the current buffer by more than two thirds. The consortium claims also to be working with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust  - strange that there's nothing on their website about this.

What chance do we have to make sensible planning decisions, taking reasonable account of wildlife and the natural environment, when we are faced with blatant propaganda? It's not that the proposed development is entirely without its merits - we do need to build homes and I'm generally not a NIMBY in outlook. But I massively object to what are effectively lies by omission - the leaflet reeks of deception, of a lack of true care and of all those values that that will happily see our natural assets diminished if it means their own are increased.

The Consortium concludes by saying, We want to hear what you think. You'll not be surprised that from one blogger at least, they're going to get what they wished for - and very loud and clear, it will be too.


  1. Good for you. I suggest a letter to the local paper too pointing out this leaflet's defects to others who may have been fooled by it.

  2. They obviously spend a fair chunk of the profit on hiring very professional copy-writers.

    The saddest part is that there must be many people who know the devastating impact these builds can have on the environment, yet happily accept their job is to deceive the public.

    Get your strongest words ready!

  3. Our leaflet has yet to arrive, though I've seen the electronic version.

    See you at the public meeting?

  4. Why am I now surprised at the depths these companies will sink to? More power to your writing elbow, Mark!

  5. I agree with you Mark. Too much propaganda, too little information. Success to you in your preservation efforts.

    We have a little development project going on here, I will blog it in due course.

  6. I'm really just posting to play devil's advocate here, but a few thoughts:

    I disagree with the statement that this leaflet is deception; mainly because the first sentence on the front tells you exactly who is proposing the development, and the companies that make up the North Chippenham Consortium. The name, North Chippenham Consortium in itself seems to be appropriate for a consortium of companies seeking to build on the northern edge of Chippenham, and North Chippenham Community Newsletter is quite a sensible name for their newsletter. A slightly different read of the name of the newsletter could portray the meaning - the North Chippenham newsletter to the community, part of what is actually quite good stakeholder engagement.

    "It says too that the development proposes a buffer of green open space to protect the wood - what this actually means is that they will stop building just before they reach the trees, reducing the current buffer by more than two thirds."
    I also find this comment quite comical. 60m is by no means 'just before they reach the trees' - as you say it's still one third of the existing green land between the edge of town and the woods. If they didn't reduce the amount of green land at all, there wouldn't be anywhere to put the houses! The fact that they have shown some concession to maintaining a barrier between the development and the woods is vaguely reassuring, especially if you were to calculate the potential value of properties that could be built on a 60m wide band of land. I estimate that it could be about four rows of about 70 houses each = 280 houses, based on there being approx. 30m between streets and approx. 5m wide houses (based on existing development in Chippenham).

    The main road links will obviously cause an increase in pollution to some extent, but actually they will provide a much-needed improvement in the link between the A350 and the B4069 and Parsonage Way. Even so, I imagine that traffic flow wouldn't be significant. Woodland can be a very successful absorber of pollutants, so if some of that 60m was planted with a buffer of trees, the existing woodland could be effectively protected. If the new trees were planted sympathetically and in keeping with the woods, this plan could effectively expand the woodland, rather than have a negative impact on its growth.

    Also, polluted runoff from the development is unlikely to have a significant effect on the woodland, as water can't flow uphill. I guess therefore that the main environmental impact to consider would be loss of habitat, but I wouldn't imagine that the area of the development itself is unique enough to warrant special consideration.

    In reality, I think that the only people who truly seek to lose out from this development are those who live along the town edge and currently look out over fields.

    I would suggest that rather than trying to prevent this development, locals push to have that 60m buffer zone and the woods themselves designated with firmer protection to prevent any future development from eating up that space.

  7. Whilst challenge is good, we clearly have different perspectives and levels of cynicism. Frankly, there was no way on earth that leaflet was designed to openly show it was the work of a commercial consortium - rather the opposite. The plain truth is the designers wanted to create the impression there was some sort of community campaign or community group behind it. It was plainly not a community newsletter in the sense it was coming FROM the community. If you take your definition, then any fascist, racist, or worse, could publish their views and call it a community newsletter on the basis it is going TO the community - come off it, nobody reasonably uses that definition. Community newsletters come FROM the community, or their representatives, not from comercial enterprises looking to build on green belt.

    I think you have a point about seeking greater protection for the buffer, but 60m is just not enough. I am unequivocal in my view that I want to protect precious landscape, but I'm also realistic enough to understand that we can't all be NIMBYs. What I dislike more than anything is weasel words and misrepresentation - that's exactly what this leaflet does any objective observer would quickly see that.

    Do you, I wonder have any commercial interest in the development (which I accept is not all bad) - if so, you should declare it.