Natural England warns plans to reclaim Portsmouth land and build 2,200 homes could 'disturb Brent geese'
PLANS to reclaim land for a new 'super peninsula' are likely to continue despite fears it could 'damage or destroy' animal habitats and disturb Brent geese.
In a bid to meet 'impossible' housing targets Portsmouth City Council revealed proposals to reclaim parts of Portsmouth Harbour between Tipner West and Horsea Island earlier this year.
The clawed back 22 hectares could fit 2,200 new homes as well as roads, businesses and a school.
But now Natural England has shared its concerns about the impact of reclaiming the land citing loss of habitats, increase in sewage water into the harbour and the disturbance to Brent Geese and wader birds.
In the latest report on the scheme Natural England said: 'The super peninsula option is contrary to the conservation objectives of the Portsmouth Harbour special protection area and Ramsar (convention on wetlands) site and will damage or destroy the interest features.
'We strongly recommend that the council progresses alternative options to meet housing need that are less environmentally damaging and more sustainable.
'The super peninsula is a complex proposal that will result in a number of significant impacts on the environment.'
The advisory body ultimately ruled that the council would have to prove there were no other alternatives to reclaiming the land and that work would be ‘carried out for imperative reasons of overriding public interest’.
But Portsmouth City Council confirmed that plans would be 'subject to the most rigorous testing and requirements for justification.'
The council's cabinet member for development, Councillor Steve Pitt, said: 'We will always take Natural England's advice and work closely with them. However, we think it may be possible to meet their needs and concerns and therefore will be proceeding at the moment.
'It's too early to say how their concerns may or may not be mitigated but this is by no means a done deal. It's an exploratory process which we are working on in conjunction with partners.'
This is not the first time Brent Geese populations have put a spanner in the works of city planning.
In the 1990s a government inspector blocked Portsmouth Football Club’s move from Fratton to Farlington after deeming a new site too close to marshland.
The Solent Wheel at Clarence Pier was also dismantled in 2016 over fears thousands of migrating Brent Geese could fly into it.
Housing targets set by government ask for 17,260 new homes in the city between 2016 and 2036. Portsmouth has capacity for 14,500 extra homes.
The report will be heard at a Portsmouth cabinet meeting on Wednesday, July 24.
Council would be ‘mad’ to oppose Natural England advice
Residents living close to the Tipner site have doubts the build will ever take place – and one said the council would be ‘mad’ to go through with it against Natural England’s advice.
Poppy Lewis has lived in Harbour Way since before the construction of the M275 motorway in 1976 and opposes the development.
Comparing the potential loss of wildlife at Tipner with what she experienced when the road was built adjacent to her home, the 79-year-old said: ‘[The council is] mad.
‘We used to have beautiful trees up there where the squirrels used to chase each other and birds used to be.
‘We wonder why there are less animals, of course there are – there's nowhere for them to go.
‘This would be the same.’
Around the corner in Tipner Lane, Doreen Fay has lived in her former naval home since 1963.
On the prospect of 2,200 homes being built nearby, she said: ‘I know people need homes, especially council properties, but if they’re going to reclaim the land I worry about what would it would do to the water table.’
She added: ‘The only comfort I’ve got is that there’s land near here they've had a planning application on for years and they’ve done nothing.
‘I don't think we need to worry too much, because I don’t think it’ll happen.’
Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, added: ‘If it’s going to damage the environment then I'm against it.'
Planning shouldn’t be at environment’s expense
A FRIENDS of the Earth campaigner has urged the council to put the environment first at Tipner – four months after it declared a climate emergency.
Ray Cobbett, chairman of the Havant branch, said: ‘We should not be trying to meet housing targets at the expense of the environment.
‘The Solent is already facing a major nitrate run off challenge which is threatening aquatic life in our area.’