A WILDLIFE watchdog has called for a major York housing scheme to be thrown out because of the impact on wild creatures from great crested newts to water voles.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust told a public inquiry into the 540-home Derwenthorpe scheme that there should have been an ecological assessment before the site at Osbaldwick was allocated for housing in the Local Plan.

"This would have resulted in it being designated as a local site for its wildlife value," said senior conservation officer, Robert Masheder, in a submission to the Guildhall inquiry.

He claimed the site was of sub-regional nature conservation value, supporting important grassland habitats as well as a range of locally, nationally and internationally important species, which should be protected. He said the Local Plan protected hedgerows, but the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's model village proposals would result in the loss of most of the important hedgerows.

The development was likely to have an adverse impact on great crested newts and other amphibians, and water voles in a beck would be at increased risk from domestic animals.

Local resident and campaigner Mark Warters said in a submission that he had watched with growing concern over the past 15 years as much of the historic city and surrounding green fields had been surrendered in a development free-for-all initiated by the council.

He said the meadows where the homes were planned were a "unique environmental oasis" and it was worth local people fighting for their preservation.

He criticised foundation plans to dig up some of the grassland and "cart it off" to New Earswick, where he said it would attempt to recreate what it was destroying at Osbaldwick. "I do not just find this suggestion immoral but deeply offensive."

Another expert Richard Humphries, speaking on behalf of the foundation, said English Nature did not object to the plans, and was satisfied that issues involving protected species and habitats had been addressed.

He said the creation of new wetland would provide additional habitat with better opportunities for water vole, and the pond supporting the great crested newt would be unaffected by the proposal.

There would be sufficient high quality habitat around the pond to maintain and enhance the population, and only small sections of boundary hedges would be lost.

  • The funeral of Derwenthorpe campaigner Bill Hall has been arranged for a day when people involved in the public inquiry are able to attend. The service takes place at noon next Monday at Osbaldwick Parish Church, followed by burial at Fulford Cemetery.