Scaled-down plans for controversial camping site at West Stow look set to be approved

Proposed West Stow campsite ANL-151116-163918009
Proposed West Stow campsite ANL-151116-163918009
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A council’s scaled-down plans for a controversial caravan and camping site at West Stow Country Park look set to be approved - despite a continued backlash.

More than 50 objections have been raised with St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which wants to build 100 pitches on the 3.21 hectare site within the beauty spot.

It says the site would boost visitor numbers and income for the country park, which is subsidised.

The authority previously abandoned plans for a 180 pitch site to conduct further environmental assessments after receiving about 80 objections. It has now drafted a series of measures to reduce impacts on wildlife as the area is bordered by the Breckland Special Protection Area (SPA) - home to nightjar, woodlark and stone curlew ground nesting bird species.

In a report to the council’s development control committee, which is due to make a decision on the plans next month, officers said the site ‘will have some harmful effects on landscape and biodiversity’. However, a Habitats Regulations Assessment has concluded these can be ‘screened out’. They recommended planning permission be granted.

It follows concerns from residents and groups including Culford, West Stow and Wordwell Parish Council about the ‘adverse’ effects on the landscape and wildlife due to increased noise, traffic and light pollution.

One objection lamented the loss of 30 trees to create visibility at the site’s access as ‘environmental vandalism for financial gain’. The Suffolk Preservation Society said additional planting should be provided, which the council has agreed to.

A letter of support said the area would benefit from such a site run by the camping and caravan clubs.

The RSPB objected over ‘insufficient evidence’ to prove ‘adverse effects’ on wildlife could be avoided.

Natural England said any effects on the SPA are ‘unlikely to be significant’ but it is ‘not possible to rule out effects to the birds entirely’.

The council will conduct a visitor and bird monitoring programme following calls from Natural England and the Forestry Commission.

To mitigate the loss of reptile habitat at the site, Suffolk Wildlife Trust asked for others to be created.

A sandy soil bund is planned on the northern boundary of the site for the benefit of reptiles.