This week the Woods under Threat team have been battling it out against Q Hotels and their application to build a golf course within ancient woodland near Scunthorpe. The application was originally refused by North Lincolnshire Council back in 2008 but since then Q Hotels appealed against the decision and the application is now being decided through a public inquiry. Find out more about this here.
We are objecting to the hotel expanding their existing golf course and hotel in 81 hectares (201 acres) of ancient woodland. This will result in the direct loss of 33 hectares and then cause irreversible damage to the remaining 44 hectares (109 acres). You can immediately see this is not a small amount of ancient woodland – shockingly it is around 25% of North Lincolnshire’s ancient woodland cover.
As our regular readers will know this is a serious matter as ancient woodland is irreplaceable and as far as we are concerned the need for a golf course does not in any way out weigh the need to protect ancient woodland from development.
It is this belief and the Trust’s aim of no further loss of ancient woodland that has led two of my colleagues to unfalteringly defend the fate of ancient woodland in the witness stand – it was a bit like being in an episode of LA Law. Once we have finished giving our evidence it is over to our colleagues from Friends of the Earth, CPRE and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust to help explain how important ancient woodland is and how it is not possible to combine it with a golf course.
The difference between a golf course and ancient woodland is actually quite interesting – although you may be forgiven for not yet realising this! As golf courses generally have lots of nice trees, bits of woodland and green grass it makes you think that it is actually quite a nice place wildlife to live in. Some species may thrive here – the more generalist species that are able to cope with changes in their local environment. However for those more specialist species, such as those found in ancient woodland it is a different story. These types of species are adapted to thrive in conditions in a woodland and when you start to change these – even a little bit they are often not able to change quickly enough to survive and will be out competed by a more aggressive and opportunist species. When you combine this with lots of chemicals applied to keep the course in top playing condition things start to look a little different. Independent research comissioned by the Trust shows startling impacts.
I would like to take this opportunity to say that we are not against golf courses per se – I can assure you that there are a good few Trust staff and members that are avid golfers! We are just aware that when you have something like ancient woodland which is irreplaceable it should be looked after – with only around 2% of the UKs land area being ancient woodland there is plenty of scope for avoiding it.
The public inquiry is set to go on for the rest of the week which will not give enough time to hear Q Hotel’s evidence and as a result the inquiry will re-open in November. We will keep you posted.