DEVELOPERS have been told which aspects of the environmental impact should be assessed if they submit a planning application for up to 500 homes on a site bordering a York nature reserve.

Wildlife experts and naturalists have been fervently opposed to any development of the site on Moor Lane, Acomb, because of the impact on Askham Bog, which has been dubbed the the ‘York Minster of conservation.’

The site is in the Green Belt and is not allocated for development in York’s Local Plan, but City of York Council was asked by Jamie Lynch to give a ‘scoping’ opinion on what needed to be assessed if a planning application was submitted for a mixed use development of up to 500 homes, public open space, allotments, school and sports facilities.

Michael Slater, assistant director of planning at the authority, said it had been asked by the developers for its opinion on which matters an Environmental Impact Statement (EIA) should include, should they make any future planning application.

“The site at Moor Lane is not allocated as a development site on the submitted Local Plan and is shown as being within the greenbelt on the policies map,” he said.

In a letter to Mr Lynch, development management officer Alison Stockdale said the authority agreed with his assessment that an EIA would be required as a result of the scale of the development, ‘and particularly the potential ecological impact on the neighbouring Askham Bog SSSI.’ (site of special scientific interest.)

She said council forward planning officials had said that despite a proposed ecological buffer, the development was likely to have ‘significant impacts on this site of national importance for nature conservation.’ These included changes to the hydrology, unregulated recreational use and pets.

She said the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust had noted that it had been established through the Local Plan process that the site could not be developed without unacceptable harm to the bog.

The trust had said robust and scientific evidence would be required as to how the site could be developed without harming the SSSI.

It also said the ‘urban edge effects’ would need to be looked at in much greater detail.

These included ‘loss of buffer and foraging habitat. invasive plants, impact of domestic pets, fires (particularly important in drought periods), litter, noise, lighting, garden escapes, loss of dead wood, potential for pets treated for fleas and parasites swimming in ponds, run-off from roads etc.’

She added that Highways England had said that a travel plan would also be needed, given the size of the prospective development.