CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a nature site in Knutsford are calling on Cheshire East to insist an environmental impact assessment is provided.

The site, which is east of Longridge, was removed from the Greenbelt in 2017 as part of the Cheshire East Local Plan and Dewscope Ltd has submitted an application to build 225 homes on the land.

In November last year, campaigners fighting the controversial scheme were given a boost when the land was designated a Local Wildlife Site (LWS) and part of it is also now officially Designated Ancient Woodland.

Now the Save Longridge Greenbelt group is calling for an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The aim of an EIA is to ensure a council is fully aware of the likely significant environmental effects of a proposed development, prior to granting planning permission. It is submitted by an applicant as part of the planning process.

The developer has submitted an application to the council formally requesting a screening opinion, and arguing an EIA isn’t required.

In a letter sent to the council’s planners earlier this year, Save Longridge Greenbelt said: “We’re very concerned that no EIA was carried out for Longridge.

“Apart from the loss of a green space to the community, the loss of nature is our biggest concern in relation to any development at Longridge and the Secretary of State left consideration of an EIA, in relation to the land, to Cheshire East to decide.”

This month, Emery Planning submitted a document on behalf of Dewscope arguing there was no need for an EIA.

The eight page document concluded: “It is considered that all likely impacts of the proposed development can be adequately mitigated through the normal planning process and use of appropriate planning conditions to secure any necessary mitigation in respect of issues such as ecology, highways, noise, air quality etc.

"Therefore it is considered that mitigation options exist which would ensure the development does not require EIA.”

But John Finnan, of Save Longridge Greenbelt, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “We would not be where we are today if an EIA had been considered properly in advance of the planning application, so the present situation is not surprising.”

He has now compiled a response to the arguments put forward by the developer, which he will be sending to Cheshire East.

One argument put forward by the developer is that ‘the application… includes detailed mitigation measures to enhance habitats on-site’ and ‘it is not considered that the loss of the biodiversity would be significant for the purposes of EIA. To the contrary, the proposed development would deliver a measurable net gain in biodiversity'.

Mr Finnan added: “The reality is that, if development were to proceed then 225 houses would be built on top of this officially designated Local Wildlife Site, part of which is also designated as an Ancient Woodland.

“In the process, 500 trees would be grubbed out, hedgerows would be destroyed, and historic grasses plus seven decades of re-wilding would be bulldozed to oblivion.

"This would push 92 different bird species, including owl and kingfisher, seven species of bat, diving beetles, great crested newts and foxes all to the margins. What kind of enhancement or gain in biodiversity is that?

"It’s not my idea of how to enhance a Local Wildlife Site and an Ancient Woodland.”