Looking after the forest’s flora, fauna and landscape is right at the heart of the proposed regeneration.
David Warburton, Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) Head of Area, said:
Taking good care of the forest and its wildlife has always been central to our vision for the Northern Quarter project. Maintaining healthy populations of protected species in the Forest of Dean is extremely important. We’re doing everything we can to protect wildlife and are absolutely committed to ensuring that the development meets all environmental and sustainability obligations.
One of the early priorities is to build 2 new bat roosts, to replace the derelict buildings on the former Northern United colliery site. Work on the rest of this site and construction of the northern section of the new ‘spine’ access road cannot begin until experts from Natural England are satisfied that the bats are substantially using the new roosts.
Planning permission to create the replacement roosts has already been granted, and work is expected to start in the summer. Lydney-based firm Apex Architecture has been appointed to oversee their design and construction, through a competitive tendering process run by Forest of Dean district council and funded by the HCA.
Richard Jones, director of Apex Architecture, is in charge of the expert design of the new bat roosts and is working closely with the council to manage the project, he said:
Ecology is absolutely vital for this sort of project. We are increasingly being asked to cater for the needs of a variety of animals, particularly in the Forest of Dean area. The 2 new bat roosts for the Northern Quarter are specifically designed for use by lesser horseshoe bats, but the design will also allow for other bat species to use them. We’re following strict ecological methods, to help us design and complete the job. I’m sure what we learn here will be useful for other projects in the future.
Apex Architecture has been based in Gloucestershire for more than 25 years and currently employs 8 people. The company hopes to use a contractor with a significant local workforce to build the roosts, so that the value of the work stays within the forest and benefits local people.
Councillor Tim Holder, vice-chair of the Cinderford Regeneration Board, is keenly aware of the need to make sure that the Northern Quarter regeneration fully complies with requirements for working in such an ecologically sensitive area.
Developing this prime site involves caring for a complex and diverse eco-system in an important location for all protected species.
Independent environmental consultants are monitoring the project to make sure that the regeneration takes all the necessary ecological factors into account.
Other environmental measures in the Northern Quarter project include:
- further small night roosts for bats
- bird and dormouse boxes
- log, brash and rubble piles for a variety of species, including newts and invertebrates
- enhanced and newly-planted areas of broad-leaved woodland, scrub and grassland
- 2 road underpasses and 2 brook crossings, to allow animals to move between habitats across the Northern Quarter area
As with the initial work that’s already been completed, the regeneration will be strictly managed to minimise disturbance from noise, light and pollution.
Feedback from an exhibition in Cinderford about the proposed Northern Quarter project at the end of last year showed that the regeneration has strong support from local people, politicians, businesses and stakeholders. It will unlock more than £100 million in investment to redevelop the former coalfield site and create a vibrant new destination for business, education, lifestyle and homes, while protecting and enhancing the beautiful forest setting.
The judicial reviews of the council’s Core Strategy and the Area Action Plan, Masterplan and Design Code for the Cinderford Northern Quarter, sought by Forest of Dean Friends of the Earth, have recently failed in the High Court and Court of Appeal.