Wildlife concerns over campsite plans for West Stow Country Park

West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
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Concerns have been raised over the impact on an ‘unusual collection of wildlife’ if plans for a 180 pitch caravan and camping site at a country park are given the go-ahead.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is seeking permission to set up 30 touring caravan or motorhome pitches and up to 150 tent pitches at West Stow Country Park.

The authority hopes the move will increase business at the park’s visitor centre, café and the Anglo Saxon museum.

However, objections have been submitted to the authority over the potential impact on wildlife as the country park is bounded on three sides by the Breckland Special Protection Area (SPA) and Breckland Forest Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

In a letter to the council, James Meyer, conservation planner for Suffolk Wildlife Trust, questions an ecological appraisal, within the council’s application, which says the camp site would have ‘no likely significant effect’ on Breckland SPA and ‘no impact’ on Breckland Forest SSSI, West Stow Heath SSSI or Lackford Lakes SSSI.

Mr Meyer says the appraisal ‘appears to be based upon the assumption the camp site will contain 100 pitches’ and 10 per cent of campsite visitors will visit the adjacent forest every day. He says it is ‘unclear’ where the 10 per cent figure has been obtained from and the assessment should take into account the likely increase in the number of dogs in the area.

Mr Meyer adds: “The campsite would be close to a part of the (Lackford Lakes) SSSI which is currently relatively undisturbed and therefore increased levels of disturbance would have the potential to significantly impact on the designated features.”

Natural England has disputed the appraisal’s conclusion that the site ‘will not have a significant effect’ on Breckland SPA. There are also concerns from charity Perennial, which owns the nearby Fullers Mill Garden, and Bernard Tickner, who created the garden. In a letter, Richard Capewell, chief executive of Perennial, says the proposed location of the site is a ‘natural buffer zone’ and ‘helps to conserve the environment of forest and lakes’.

On the presence of owls, woodpeckers, nightjars and woodlarks, Mr Tickner writes: “Should the proposed caravan site take place I fear for this unusual collection of wildlife. I fear the noise generated by it will drive away the occupants of this peaceful community.”

A council spokesman said it would review concerns raised to see if an Environmental Impact Assessment was required. No date has been set for a decision on the plans.