Petition handed to council in bid to save Robsack Meadow

Campaigners present a petition to Hastings Borough Council.
Campaigners present a petition to Hastings Borough Council.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a meadow have handed a petition with more than 200 signatures to the council, urging councillors to protect it from development.

Members of the Campaign to Protect Robsack Meadow and Hastings Planning and Heritage Watchdog attracted scores of people’s interest before presenting the document at the town hall recently.

Paddy Stephenson, of Whittlewood Close, and spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Robsack Meadow, fears another scheme for developing the meadow could be on the cards.

She said: “There are indications that the council is once again endeavouring to resurrect their attempts to build on this site so we have therefore mounted this petition, requesting that this council uses its political will to withdraw this meadow from the Local Development Plan and incorporate it into the existing Local Nature Reserve.

“In 2004 the surrounding ancient woodland, Robsack Wood and Churchwood, were granted Local Nature Reserve status. Robsack Meadow is situated directly in the middle of these ancient woodlands.

“We were under the impression that this was the end of the matter and Robsack Meadow and all the wildlife would be protected in perpetuity.

“But in June 2008, to our dismay, the council granted outline planning consent for two five-storey blocks of flats.”

Campaigners received a huge boost when these plans to build 32 flats on Robsack Meadow were overturned in June last year.

Hastings Borough Council’s barrister advised the authority the matter would have to go back to the planning committee.

The council’s legal team said full ecological assessments would have to be carried out, particularly in relation to the areas of ancient woodland near the site.

Mrs Stephenson said: “Robsack Meadow is the last bit of green space in this area. All around the meadow, it is built up with houses.

“In 1998 the council’s ecologist produced a report which contained detailed evidence why no development should take place on this important bio-diverse meadow.

“It is home to many European protected species like bats. There are also badgers, slow worms, lizards, damsel flies and great crested newts in the nearby ponds of Robsack Wood.

“This little meadow is a much used area by residents. It must not be taken away.”

Councillor Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, said: “The land is in the Local Borough Plan and has been earmarked for development for the last 20 years. The council has also unanimously agreed at its budget meeting that this land was to go in the disposal programme and land for development use.”

He said the first stage of the Local Development Framework, a document that outlines possible development in the town over the next 25 years, will come up for public discussion early next year.

Cllr Birch said: “There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to have their say.”