Application for Tesco superstore on Harrogate brownfield site uses out of date ecology data

By Elf

At the beginning of 2022 ELF was contacted by a community in Harrogate who will be significantly affected by proposals to build a large Tesco superstore on an old gasworks site and brownfield site that has returned to nature over 70 years of abandonment. We know very well that brownfield sites can be very valuable to nature

ELF was alerted by local people to the presence of Great Crested Newts. When ELF looked at the planning application we identified serious issues with the ecology report. Not only with its findings on Great Crest Newts and how the survey had been conducted, when there was evidence of the presence of newts from local people, the lack of any invertebrate surveys at all but also importantly the use by the applicant of ecological data from a previous planning decision in 2009. This had been used to calculate the biodiversity metric, rather than up to date ecological evidence from the current application in 2021.

The biodiversity metric is an important new development introduced by the Environment Act 2021 for assessing nature enhancement for 10% biodiversity net gain delivered through the planning system. To see an applicant already undermining this process by the use of significantly out of date ecological evidence was seriously disappointing.

ELF took advice from one of our ELF professional members, Dr John Feltwell, an ecologist, and with him drafted a letter on behalf of the residents pointing out our concerns. This was lodged with the Planning Department. The Environment Agency agreed with us and raised similar concerns regarding the use of out of date information to inform the biodiversity metric. We await the planning decision.