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Wildlife warden resigns over Kiln Meadow plans
By Richard Haugh
BBC Suffolk

Houses by the side of Kiln Meadow
Around 100 houses could be built on Kiln Meadow

A wildlife warden has resigned in protest at Ipswich Borough Council's plans for a housing development on Kiln Meadow in Pinewood, Ipswich.

Ray Sidaway has volunteered at neighbouring Spring Wood for 14 years but says he does not want houses built up to the woodland.

"I decided I couldn't work for people who had such a disregard for wildlife.

"Every wildlife group in the county is against Ipswich (Borough Council) for their sale of this land," said Ray.

Ipswich Borough Council wants to sell the 11-acre Kiln Meadow site for a development of 100 new homes.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Ipswich Wildlife Group are challenging the sale of the site, which is home to one of the largest colonies of toads in the UK.

"The meadow is effectively being sold to developers and there's no provision made by Ipswich (Borough Council) for wildlife at all, so the whole of the wildlife on the meadow is exposed to whatever the developer wants to do," said Ray.

Entrance to Spring Wood nature reserve
Kiln Meadow neighbours Spring Wood nature reserve

"Kiln Meadow is a significant part of the third biggest toad colony in Britain. It's also a very important reptile site, very good wild flower meadow and surrounded by local nature reserves and county wildlife sites.

"There is no real mitigation strategy that you can adopt for toads. Basically, they're in the meadow and when the developer comes on site, the toads are exposed to that and there's nowhere really for them to go.

"You can't just pick them up, put them in a lorry and put them somewhere else - they'll just go back to where they were before."

Council responds

Councillor Elizabeth Harsant, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said she was sad to hear of Ray's resignation.

Speaking on Mark Matthews's Breakfast Show on BBC Suffolk, she said the current inhabitants would be saved.

"I'm absolutely convinced from the various surveys that we've had done that the wildlife will survive and that the area of land that is going to be left will be developed as a wildlife site," said Councillor Harsant.

Ipswich Borough Council has owned the land since the 1970s but the area is controlled by Babergh District Council.

"(The developers) have to go through quite stringent planning, reserved matters it's called, with Babergh District Council and I'm sure they'll impose upon them fairly stringent rules about how the wildlife is going to be dealt with.

"The toads are common toads and they're not a protected species. There was a lot of talk about dormice, but they're not actually on Kiln Meadow."

Ray rejects these claims and says the "third of the land" the council states is being reserved for wildlife is not suitable.

"They're just peddling mis-information to try to put a positive spin on the decision they've made," he said.

"That large open space is there because it's right next door to the sewage works and they're not allowed to build houses there.

"It's not a wildlife space. It's been sold to the developer so they can use the open space to park JCBs on, dump top soil, brick piles, things like that. It's not good for wildlife at all.

"Ipswich (Borough Council) could have kept that land, decided to make it a wildlife site, left it in the hand of Greenways or Suffolk Wildlife Trust and at least there would have been some hope for wildlife."

Financial concerns

On top of making reassurances about the protection of wildlife, Councillor Harsant says the sale of the land would have wide-reaching benefits.

Kiln Meadow, Ipswich
Ipswich Borough Council says more homes are needed

"If the sale goes through, £1m of the money we receive will go towards the environment," she said.

"We have an environment strategy, which quite frankly in these straightened times, couldn't be delivered, but could be delivered with this money.

"Councillors and many people that work in housing know how desperately we need housing for young couples, affordable housing in particular.

"This will deliver some of those much needed homes for young people.

"I want to make it clear that we didn't take the decision lightly.

"Although we were all very concerned about the wildlife we also had to think about people.

"We don't have any money in the council at the moment and the amount of money that will come in from Kiln Meadow if it comes through would deliver an awful lot for the people of Ipswich."

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