Askham Bog is a site “to be cherished and protected”, the first day of a public inquiry heard.
They were the words of Stephen Morgan, representing City of York Council. He told a planning inspector that the nature reserve was at risk from plans to build 500 homes on nearby land, adding:
As a site of special scientific interest in itself, the bog achieves significant legislative and policy protection.
The proposals would cause significant harm to the Green Belt.
There would be very significant harm arising from these proposals.
The inquiry is set to take 12 days at the Citadel on Gillygate – but planning inspector Paul Clark warned it could take longer.
‘York needs homes’
The proposed development site, off Moor Lane and north of the bog, lies within the Green Belt and Mr Clark said the key issues to be discussed at the inquiry will be whether there are special circumstances to allow this land to be used for homes – as well as the impact on the bog, on roads in the area and on meeting the need for more houses in the city.
The decision on whether the development can go ahead – despite being rejected by the council’s planning committee – will be made by the Secretary of State and a date has not yet been set for when it will be announced.
The scheme will include new public open space and there will be a 124 metre-wide protection barrier created between the development and the bog. He said:
Very special circumstances exist to justify the proposal. York is in the midst of a housing crisis.
York accept that in order to meet its housing needs now, development will have to occur on a significant scale.
He added that a key issue is the impact on Askham Bog – but that there are complex arguments over this which will be outlined during expert evidence.
‘Natural world in peril’
Representing Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Emma Fenelon urged the planning inspector to keep the word “irreplaceable” in mind – saying the bog means a lot to residents.
So much of the natural world is in peril and now, more than ever before, ancient places like Askham Bog must be protected. These are Sir David Attenborough’s words.
In the midst of such technical arguments one might be forgiven for forgetting that Askham Bog is an ancient place.
It is already almost surrounded. Proposals to mitigate the effects [of the development] are unworkable.
Cllr Anna Perrett, Labour candidate for York Outer, and Cllr Stephen Fenton and former councillor Ann Reid will also speak at the inquiry.