Petition calls on Dunmow Town Council not to consider car park proposals

Foakes Hall, Dunmow, where the down and commons committee meeting took place on September 5. Picture

Foakes Hall, Dunmow, where the down and commons committee meeting took place on September 5. Picture: SaffronPhoto - Credit: Archant

A petition has been handed to Dunmow Town Council, arguing against possible plans to clear a “wildlife haven” near the town’s recreation ground.

Councillors discussed the future of land at Lime Tree Hill at a committee meeting on September 5, with the option of a car park for up to 30 cars as well as driveway access to the recreation ground, the creation of a community orchard and retaining the shrub land in the short to medium-term, considered.

During the down and commons committee meeting, attended by about 30 members of the public, councillors sought to reassure residents that no plan had been finalised yet and they resolved to leave the land untouched for now.

The petition, handed in by Kate Woods, and signed by 178 people, read: "We are opposed to Great Dunmow Town Council's plan to clear the scrub area. The area is a valuable wildlife habitat and provides increasingly rare shelter and food to a diverse range of animals, birds, insects, flora and fauna. It is precisely the type of area that wildlife and environmental experts are urging us to protect. We would like the area to be sensitively and correctly managed for the protection and enhancement of the wildlife."

Ms Woods said at the meeting: "Council might like to consider that at a time when a good proportion of Dunmow-ites are feeling embattled by the continuous onslaught of housing developments and planning applications all around the town, with the ensuing loss of green field sites, clearing an established and attractive wooded space would indicate a complete lack of understanding of what is important to its residents."

Pascale Muir told councillors: "I'm at a loss to understand why you are persisting with this proposal when you yourself don't seem to have a reason for flattening it, and when doing so stands to cause so much harm and loss.

"The area is a wildlife haven and, as such, it has a purpose. If we want our children to have a future we must stop trying to give every square metre of land a human use, and allow natural space to prosper."

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Turning to the possibility of a car park on the site, one Church End resident said: "To take away what we have got for the sake of a Saturday or Sunday morning football club team is outrageous where there is a carpark, and Foakes Hall up the road which they could park in. They have the problem, not us. Thirty-nine years that road has been clear, it is only busy in the football season."

In response, Councillor David Beedle said: "For a long time the council was looking to acquire this piece of land really because we were looking to protect the land."

He acknowledged that parking or allotments on the site had been the "initial suggestion" but said that since, separate plans had progressed to increase the capacity of the recreation ground's cark park.

He went on: "I certainly feel it would be nice to clear it. It would be good to get a dedicated entrance further up. That is the only thing I certainly feel is necessary at this time."

Councillor Peter Noble said a report should be compiled before a "long standing decision" is made. He said: "What are the residents' views? What are the environmental impacts? Let's do this properly. We want the facts and then we can have a proper discussion, not a discussion based on 'well somebody said there is going to be a carkpark.'"

Councillor Amanda Brown said: "I think we need to have some more information before we agree. My personal view at this time... we leave it in the short term. My second option was the orchard."

Councillor Mike Coleman echoed Cllr Beedle's call for another entrance to the site, stating that the current entrance was in a "dangerous position".

Committee chairman Councillor Barrie Easter, who had earlier emphasised that nothing had yet been decided, said: "In the future, it will be looked at but with the present time nothing will be done apart from looking to get a safer entrance."