The evocative call of the curlew has heralded new ammunition for objectors fighting to keep developers at bay.
The distinctive curved-bill bird is prevalent on The Rough in Colne and has just been moved on to the RSPB’s Red List as a species needing the highest priority for conservation.
The announcement has prompted the protest group Lidgett and Beyond to carry out the first official survey of the ecology of The Rough – land between Windermere Avenue, Skipton Old Road and Castle Road – in a project starting in the next few days.
Developers Junction Property want to build a housing estate, said to be 360 properties, on the land. The application will be decided at an appeal heard by a planning inspector.
The survey findings will be presented at the appeal inquiry which is due to begin on August 2nd and expected to last between four and six days.
“Locals know that The Rough is an important site for curlews,” said David Cockburn-Price, chairman of the trustees of the Lidgett and Beyond charity. “The importance given to wildlife and its sustainability in planning decisions depends on a realistic assessment of the site’s value. A list of species present on the site will help the planning inspector to make an informed decision at the inquiry for the appeal. We believe our more comprehensive data will supplement the scant information provided by the landowner and appellant, Junction Property.”
The curlew was added to the UK Red List because the species was found to have suffered an increasingly severe decline in breeding populations. The UK is home to about a quarter of all the curlews in the world, and their decline has prompted international concern.
Dr Mark Eaton, one of the RSPB’s principal conservation scientists, said: “To be on the red list you need to be a bird of highest conservation concern, meaning you’re in a pretty bad way. You’ve declined very rapidly, you’re at risk of extinction globally, or you are historically depleted, meaning you are much lower population levels that you were in the past.’
The Lidgett and Beyond group has raised a significant amount towards its £50,000 target to fight the developer’s appeal.
The fighting fund is being used to hire the services of experts specialising in three main areas to build a formal case against the proposed developments.
The objections will concentrate on the impact house building will have on local roads, visual changes on the landscape and the area’s the historic environment.
An analysis of The Rough’s population of curlews will form part of the group’s additional argument to prove the site is not a sustainable place for a large housing estate.