RESIDENTS and conservation campaigners have raised questions about why their local council has decided to prevent a free ecological study of nearby 'green lung' land.

Gib Hill, located between Nelson and Colne, was designated for housing by Pendle Borough Council in 2005 and has been targeted by developers in the years since, while local campaigners hope instead to ecologically protect and enhance the area and keep it for community use.

To do so, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust offered to carry out a comprehensive wildlife survey of the area to assess its ecological value, however their suspicions were raised when Pendle Borough Council turned down this offer.

Senior Conservation Officer John Lamb said: “This survey would have been carried out at absolutely no cost to the council.

“Instead, they will be paying an organisation called the Environmental Partnership to carry out their surveys.

"Earlier Environmental Partnership surveys were not adequate to allow the fields to be assessed for either the county-wide biological heritage site status or Pendle’s own sites of local natural importance.

“This is partly because Pendle Council compromised the results in 2005 by ordering the grass to be cut so that early flowering species were missed.

"The Environmental Partnership seemed content not to question this, whereas the Lancashire Wildlife Trust would challenge such behaviour.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust have offered to survey the land for free

Local community groups, such as the Hillside Heroes meanwhile, hope to raise the issue with local councillors and council officers, as well as Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson.

A Hillside Heroes spokesperson said: “Why is the council saying no to a free superior service from an organisation whose specific aim is environmental protection?

"Why instead are they spending tax payers’ money on a limited service from an organisation whose function is to promote sustainable development and works with Persimmon and Barratts amongst others?”

Mr Lamb has now formally requested permission to survey the fields and says he wishes to be informed in advance of any intention by the council to mow or graze the fields.

Pendle Council however says that previous surveys have been carried out independently, as will in future.

Lancashire Telegraph:

The Hillside Heroes hope to preserve the land for use by the community

Planning, economic and regulatory services manager Neil Watson said: “We’re now revising the borough’s housing allocations in a new Local Plan which is currently being developed.

“As part of this process an ecological survey was carried out on Gib Hill by the Environment Partnership, in 2017 and a further survey is being commissioned to take place shortly.

“That survey will provide the Council with professional, independent and objective advice on the ecological value of the land.

“It will help inform decisions on which land should or should not be allocated in the new plan.”

He added: “We recognise the offer from the Wildlife Trust to carry out a survey.

“However, it is important that any survey is done independently to give councillors the advice they need to make decisions on the future use of the land.”