Warning over threat to wildlife from carpark and sports area at UEA in Norwich

as file name

as file name - Credit: Archant

Fears have been raised over the environmental impact a planned car park and rugby pitches will have on grassland owned by the University of East Anglia.

A bee orchid.

A bee orchid. - Credit: Archant

Norfolk-based award-winniing nature writer Mark Cocker said the plan to relocate Norwich Rugby Club to a site off Colney Road would threaten the area's thriving population of mammals, insects, birds and other animals and plants.

In an artlcle in our sister paper the EDP today Mr Cocker said: 'The development is bizarre given the UEA's worldwide reputation for research on climate change and its own commitments to a sustainable future, working, as it proclaims on its own website 'to reduce negative environmental impacts,' and the creation of a low-carbon campus.

'Equally troubling is the effect of building a large car park and floodlit astro-turf pitches on the area's role as a wildlife corridor.'

Mr Cocker said a survey of wildlife on grounds around the university and the neighbouring Eaton Park boasted an astonishing 5,500 species.

The Yare near Science Park.

The Yare near Science Park. - Credit: Archant

He said: 'It is more species, for example, than at The Lodge, headquarters for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

'Among university campuses it must be the most biodiverse in Britain.

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But a UEA spokesman defended the plans, and said minimising the new facility's impact on the environment was a top priority.

He said: 'We have reduced the number and size of the car parking areas from 300 to 218 marked spaces and taken significant steps to reduce and impact on the landscape by, for example, moving the pitches away from sensitive parts of the river valley and changing the surfacing of roads and parking areas.

Mark Cocker

Mark Cocker - Credit: Archant © 2009

'The application is supported by a full range of ecology reports, landscape appraisals, flood risk assessments and reports on the effects of transport.'

The spokesman added: 'We have also undertaken additional ecology surveys to address concerns over particular wildlife species.'

'The area has always been the university sports field and the proposed development would substantially increase the number of people who can enjoy the site, promoting physical activity and the resulting benefits to health and wellbeing.'

Mr Cocker said the site was home to 23 varieties of dragonfly as well otters, water voles, bitterns, bats, bush crickets, bee orchids, waxcap mushrooms.

He said the area was much more wildlife-friendly than when he was a UEA student in the 1980s, and it was worth preserving that way.

He said: 'In my day, for some inexplicable reason, it was mown to within an inch of its life as if we were all still on a golf course. The wildlife value of those 'greens' was virtually nil.

'Go today, however, and there is a network of cut trails around the site for the convenience of myriad walkers, runners and picnickers, but the rest of the vegetation is tall, lush and full of wild flowers and insects.'

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