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New bid to create golf range on Chester wildflower site

Published date: 09 December 2013 |
Published by: Neil Bellis
Read more articles by Neil Bellis


 

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to turn a wildflower meadow into a practice range for Chester Golf Club has been resubmitted 11 months after it was first withdrawn.

The plan, on land next to the golf club off River Lane called Saltney Acres or Shaws Field, will see a practice range for use by golf club members only built on the land and the unmanaged meadow mown twice a month.

The plan, on the five-hectare site which was first submitted in February and withdrawn a month later, received hundreds of objections from local residents and wildlife groups but has now been resubmitted with modifications to the precise location.

Tom McGovern, who runs a community interest company Wild Area which attempts to improve habitats for animals in Britain, said many animal species rarely seen in Chester live in the meadow.

He said: “It is the only wildflower meadow this side [west] of Chester. They intend to destroy it by mowing it fortnightly. It is the only piece of completely natural land in the area and it is in the council’s green spaces list as an important area.

“There are a number of rare butterflies which live there and are difficult to find elsewhere in Chester such as the dingy skipper, the mother shipton and the ringlet butterflies which haven’t been seen anywhere else in Chester since the 70s.

”In the summer this place is six-feet high with wildflowers and grasses and a great habitat for wildlife which should not be lost.”

As well as the concern over wildlife Mr McGovern is concerned about the access to the land if planning goes through.

He added: “There is a pathway going down the middle of the meadow which is on the Cheshire tithe maps in 1875 but is not an adopted footpath.

“I currently have an application in to get that pathway footpath status. We have hundreds of testimonies going back 67 years which say people have been using that footpath continuously and it should stay as public use.

“To give it to a few people who play golf and to stop the general public using it would be a travesty.

“The main planning issue is loss of habitat but it is also a serious health and safety concern as well because they are not allowed to fence the site off so people will be able to go on when they want and use the public footpaths which will become dangerous.”

An ealier planning application at the site in 1999 for industrial units was refused on loss of habitat grounds.

But John Clark, chairman of development at Chester Golf Club, said in a public letter the land ‘was not and never intended to be a driving range’.

He added: “We will have no fencing, no lights, no large car parks, no buildings and will cater for members who amount to a very small fraction of these numbers.

“Our fresh application was produced after meetings with the planners where we were requested to move the boundary on the river side inland away from the eco sensitive river area. We gladly agreed to this. This now means the proposed area does not now include the two footpaths which run parallel to the river.”

The club says it is following the guidance of the bio-diversion officer and have carried out a risk assesment to show the average golfer’s shot pattern to make sure locals using the footpaths surrounding the site are not at risk.

Mr Clark added: “We have been accused of elitism, not interested in the local population and having low regard for ecology, flora and fauna. This is so far and away from the truth.

“This golf club has planted over 3,000 trees in the last 70 years and has a dedicated programme of care and replacement.

“The green keeper will not cut hedges in the nesting season and keeps large areas of undergrowth in a natural condition and has fitted many bird boxes to encourage wildlife.

“Chester Golf Club has been at Curzon Park for over 100. Our ownership has maintained a large piece of green land close to the city which by now would have been gobbled up for expansion of the industrial area or housing.”

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