Rare goat-smelling orchid last seen in Norfolk almost 60 years ago could be lost if housing plans go ahead

The former David Rice Hospital site at Drayton.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The former David Rice Hospital site at Drayton. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

There are concerns that a rare orchid - last seen in Norfolk almost 60 years ago - could be lost if a housing development goes ahead.

The rare Lizard Orchid found by Andrew Brown.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The rare Lizard Orchid found by Andrew Brown. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The Lind Trust has resubmitted an application to build 29 homes on the former David Rice Hospital site off Drayton High Road, in Drayton.

But in 2015 the land was also found to be home to a flowering Lizard Orchid, which is said to smell of goat.

And there are now fears that it could die-off if the new homes are given the go ahead by Broadland District Council.

Sam Robinson, 50, who regularly walks in the area, said: 'There is a risk that it could die, but it's also that its seeds could be all over the site and are yet to germinate. It's a protected plant and it does not feel right that a developer can ride roughshod over it.'

The rare Lizard Orchid found by Andrew Brown. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The rare Lizard Orchid found by Andrew Brown. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The orchid, which is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, was last recorded in Norfolk at Newton Flotman in 1936.

Les Brown, planning consultant for the applicant, said the orchid would be kept in a protected zone.

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He added that a full ecology assessment had been carried out and that developers had been warned to 'keep away' from it.

David White, from the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, said the plant would be a 'material consideration' in the planning process.

He added: 'It's quite likely that if it has flowered in the past two years, there is probably a proto-population in the surrounding area and there is potential for further plants.'

But he added that if soil quality is affected by any development, it could have an impact on the orchid's ability to 'persist' in the future.

The housing application states that the new homes would be limited to two storeys high and accessed from Drayton High Road.

It is an almost identical plan to one submitted by the trust back in August last year, which was later withdrawn.

Mr Brown said minor amendments had since been made to the positioning of some of the dwellings.

The trust had initially hoped to build a £6m Norwich Family Life church on the site, with a capacity for up to 1,000 people. But the plans were withdrawn in 2012.

The site was purchased in 1934 and opened as a hospital three years later. The hospital building was demolished in 2005.

Chairman of Drayton Parish Council, Graham Everett, said: 'The parish council is aware of the considerable local interest and concern regarding the current planning application for dwellings on the former David Rice Hospital site.'

• There will be a special meeting of the parish council to discuss the application on Wednesday, March 8 at 6.30pm at Drayton Junior School, on School Road.

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