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Avon Wildlife Trust joins battle to save the Western Slopes

Mayor’s office says it will look again at a “fresh consultation with the community”

Main image Danica Priest, Friends of the Western Slopes

The battle to save a Knowle West nature haven is heating up – with Avon Wildlife Trust stepping in to say it should be protected as a “vital wildlife corridor.”

Campaign group Friends of the Western Slopes has been fighting plans to develop the land which stretches from Novers Hill to Hartcliffe Way – an area of picturesque meadows and trees which are a Site of Nature Conservation Interest.

Lovell wants to build 157 homes on part of the Slopes to the north near the industrial estate, which is privately owned, and last month held an online consultation event – where most people attending strongly objected to the development.

Bristol City Council which owns the southern part of the site also has plans for development. Its housing company Goram Homes says the land has the potential for up to 440 homes.

The council says the area, also known as Novers Hill, was earmarked for development in the Bristol Local Plan and there is “an urgent need” to deliver more homes across the the city.

Now Avon Wildlife Trust (AWT) has said it will be supporting campaigners in their fight to protect the valuable green space.

In a statement the charity said: “Avon Wildlife Trust recognises Bristol’s Western Slopes as a vital wildlife corridor, and stands with those people calling it to be protected from development.

“This area, located on the slopes between Novers Hill and Hartcliffe Way, is a particularly important habitat for a wide variety of birds, mammals and rare wildflowers. We recognise that there is considerable concern from local residents that it may be vulnerable to development, and we echo their calls for it to be protected.

“The council have repeated their assurances to us that there are no foreseeable plans for development on their land in this area.

“We will of course continue to keep the lines of communication open with the council, as well as maintaining pressure on the authorities to recognise the significance of this area as a valuable wildlife habitat.” 

In February 2020 AWT’s Chief Executive Ian Barratt joined forces with Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees to declare an ecological emergency in the city in response to increasing threats to wildlife and ecosystems.

In April this year, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees announced that another South Bristol area rich in biodiversity, Brislington Meadows, would not be developed because of the ecological emergency. Homes England had plans for 300 homes on the site.

Friends of the Western Slopes members doing a litter pick. Picture Danica Priest.

A spokesperson from Friends of the Western Slopes said: “We are pleased that we now have the support of the AWT and grateful that the importance of Novers Hill is finally being acknowledged.

“The AWT have long felt that the site should protected in its entirety – both the woodland and grassland meadows are home to rare species such as horseshoe bats and rare native wildflowers.

“Any development here will greatly impact this precious established ecosystem, which is intrinsic to the wider wildlife network. We now hope the Mayor takes note too and makes Novers Hill the nature reserve it should have always been.”

“We are taking a renewed look at the ecological impact”

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office told The Knowledge: “We are looking again at a fresh consultation with the community, and taking a renewed look at the ecological impact. The recognition of Bristol’s Western Slopes as a vital wildlife corridor will be considered by the council and Goram Homes, and as part of the Lovell Homes planning process.”

Lovell Homes, which is expected to submit a planning application to Bristol City Council this month, says it has progressed the plans because the land was already earmarked by the council for development in the Local Plan.

The housebuilder has already carried out ecological surveys of the Slopes and will be retaining a green corridor in the centre of the development, where wildlife on the site will be moved. The plans also include a bat corridor which will be kept dark and Lovell says biodiversity is “absolutely key” to its scheme.

Image of the plans for the Western Slopes showing the green corridor in the centre and the bat corridor. Picture courtesy of Lovell Homes.

To view the plans visit https://novershillconsultation.co.uk

Avon Wildlife Trust has produced a leaflet detailing how to object to a planning application – especially if people are concerned about the impact on wildlife.

To find out more about Friends of the Western Slopes visit their Facebook page. The group will be at Filwood Community Market on Filwood Broadway this Saturday (7 August) to talk to residents about their campaign. The market runs from 10am – 3pm.