Save And Restore Barn Pool Meadow
Save And Restore Barn Pool Meadow
Barn Pool Meadow is a privately owned (by David Wilson Homes of Barratt Developments PLC) 8 acre area of rare calcareous grassland, mature hedgerows and scrub situated to the south of the town of Wigston in South Leicestershire. The meadow is a designated Local Wildlife Site and forms part of the wider Kilby-Foxton Canal and Lime Delves Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) thanks to a high biodiversity in water plants and animal life. Barn Pool Meadow is currently assessed by Natural England as being in ‘unfavourable condition’ owing to an absence of management since 2006. Sadly much of the site has now reverted to rank vegetation and has undergone a prolonged period of biodiversity loss.
The Oadby and Wigston Core Strategy Water Cycle Strategy Background Report for the Core Strategy Development Plan highlights the poor state of Barn Pool Meadow and the wider Lime Delves SSSI. It also makes reference to recommendations from The Phase 1 Habitat Survey and Biodiversity Audit undertaken in 2005 on behalf of the council (also attached) that should development take place in the area, that biodiversity gain is achieved through ensuring the calcareous grassland is brought back into appropriate management. A larger boundary to the site would mitigate any loss of habitat elsewhere and would allow for strategic management of grassland, scrub, and trees and would assist with conserving farmland birds. Public access could also be achieved balancing recreational needs and ecological requirements so that further damage is not carried out on the site.
As of 2021, Barratt Developments PLC, via David Wilson Homes have constructed a new housing estate on the western boundary of the meadow. Thus far, the meadow remains abandoned, and no such restoration work has taken place. The council's own Green Infrastructure Plan, written in 2012 (attached), states that Kilby Bridge Quarry, Wigston is the one and only Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites within the Borough and this is situated immediately to the north of the railway line at Kilby Bridge and sits within the wider Local Wildlife Site designation known as Barn Pool Meadow. This site could be argued to be the most ecologically interesting within a wider agricultural landscape, but the quality of the habitat has deteriorated since its original designation as a Local Wildlife Site. Despite this, there has been no further management of the site. Neither the Council or the developer are fulfilling their promises or undertaking any of the agreed recommendations.
The importance of Calcareous grassland cannot be overstated. A BAP listed habitat in almost terminal decline and extremely rare in Leicestershire and Rutland. We have, with this meadow, the opportunity to create a wildlife haven on our doorsteps - a real gem for Oadby and Wigston to be proud of.
Taken from the Forest Research best practice guidance for land regeneration:
Current estimates suggest that up to 30 000 ha of lowland calcareous grassland remain in the UK, following significant decreases of about 13 000 ha in the area of this habitat between 1990 and 2007 (Natural Environment Research Council, 2009). Major concentrations are found on the chalk downs of Wiltshire, Dorset, Kent and Sussex, with other significant areas in the Chilterns, Mendips and Cotswolds, and along the limestone outcrops and coastal cliffs of north and south Wales. Only small areas are found in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Losses are mostly due to agricultural improvement and reductions in traditional grazing management practices. While natural calcareous grasslands typically develop on dry valley slopes, semi-natural calcareous grasslands can develop in areas disturbed by human activities, including on exposed rock in disused chalk and limestone workings, along road verges and railway cuttings, and on post-industrial land. The establishment of calcareous grassland on reclaimed land is contributing to UK national conservation targets for this priority habitat. Calcareous grasslands favour chalk and limestone soils, which are rich in calcium carbonate. They can have high species diversity; 1 m 2 can support up to 40 species of flowering plants. This diversity arises through a combination of mineral nutrient stress and grazing/cutting management, which prevents domination of the grassland by a few rank species.
These grasslands can also support nationally rare or scarce species such as Hoary Rock-rose (Helianthemum oelandicum) and Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), Monkey Orchid (Orchis simia) and Late Spider-orchid (Ophrys fuciflora). These grasslands can also support nationally rare or scarce species such as Hoary Rock-rose (Helianthemum oelandicum) and Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), Monkey Orchid (Orchis simia) and Late Spider-orchid (Ophrys fuciflora). Calcareous grasslands are associated with a diverse fauna, including some amphibian, bat and bird species of principal importance in England (Natural England, 2010). These include the Pool Frog (Pelophylax lessonae), the Common Pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and the Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra). Invertebrate species of principal importance in England associated with this habitat include varieties of ground and leaf beetles, butterflies (particularly members of the Hesperiidae (Skipper, see Figure 2) and Lycaenidae (Hairsteak, Copper and Blue)
families) and moths such as the Chalk Carpet (Scotopteryx bipunctaria).
Since the 2012 report much has changed in the local and national conscience and political landscape when it comes to climate change, biodiversity loss and the future of our planet and the practices which we undertake upon it. This petition calls on Barratt Developments PLC, David Wilson Homes, Oadby and Wigston Borough Council and Neil O'Brien MP OBE to immediately put in measures to save, restore and protect Barn Pool Meadow for the benefit of wildlife, the wider environment and the community.
I have previously sent proposals to both the Council and the lead on the current housing development on how the site can be saved and brought into favorable condition with relatively little input and expense from both parties. A potential blueprint for the future of the site. The Council were initially engaged but laid the responsibility firmly at the door of the developer. Despite numerous attempts to engage with the developer, responses have not been forthcoming.
We know that nature is good for us, for our mental and physical health. Whilst parks and green amenities provide a place to gather and find fresh air, they are are not comparable to the benefits provided by wild green spaces full of wildlife. In recent decades there has been a growing disconnect between people and nature. Thankfully we are starting to rediscover why our relationship with nature is integral to our health, well-being and the well-being of our planet.
Along the western boundary of Barn Pool Meadow a new housing estate is currently being built. Restoration of the meadow will provide an immediately accessible green space for new residents to enjoy. This meadow is more than just a green space; this is a rare calcareous grassland habitat capable of holding a huge diversity and richness of species, a truly ‘wild’ slice of countryside that will serve as a space where residents of Oadby, Wigston and further afield can enjoy the sights and sounds of some of our rarest, most vulnerable wildlife. The meadow will serve as a corridor and help bring wildlife into the wider landscape as well as providing an opportunity for naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts to observe, study and record some fascinating natural history in a natural landscape that hasn’t existed in this area for many years.
A community led project to restore the meadow has the power to serve as a blueprint for ambitious communities across the UK, helping to build a greener future for wildlife and people everywhere.
For more on how a vision for Barn Pool Meadow could look, please visit www.barnpoolmeadow.wordpress.com