By John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter: Work will continue for months to come Bath’s “tufa field,” the council has said.
The nature reserve on Englishcombe Lane is ecologically and geologically significant due to its tufa blushes — a rare type of limestone spring — and is the location of controversial plans by Bath and North East Somerset Council to build a supported housing development.
Contractors are currently at the field to carry out surveys ahead of a planning application being submitted by the council — and more surveys on the nature reserve could continue until the winter.
Councillor Deborah Collins, the council’s cabinet project lead for leader, built environment and sustainable development, said: “A comprehensive range of site surveys are currently being carried out by contractors to prepare for the council’s planning application for a small-scale supported housing scheme for residents with learning difficulties.
“These surveys are under the supervision of an independent ecologist and will continue into the winter months.”
Nearby neighbour, Simon Banks, said he was surprised to see the contractors arrive in August as the council had previously told local people that the surveys would begin in November.
Mr Banks runs tufafield.com, a website which campaigns to protect the nature reserve and contains photos, information, blogs, and live cameras. Currently those live cameras show fencing stacked on the site and the occasional contractor walking across the field.
Last week, Mr Banks found himself calling an ambulance after a contractor’s forklift truck tipped over with the driver inside on the track to the field.
Mr Banks said that he appreciated that the council were engaging with the community, but added: “There is still a considerable trust building exercise to do to convince the community along here that there’s genuine intent to evaluate the site properly.”
Bath and North East Somerset Council’s original plans to build 37 homes on the site were scaled back and replaced with plans for 16 homes which would only cover part of the site after opposition from the local community.
Ms Collins said: “The Englishcombe Supported Housing Scheme will provide high quality accommodation for vulnerable residents who will be able to live as independently as possible within the district close to family and friends – and will work sympathetically with the existing site ecology.
“The council is committed to continuing engagement with the community and if anyone wishes to know more they can email the team at email@example.com.”
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