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City council calls in the ecology experts; DEVELOPMENT: Nature lovers win fight to help protect urban area's open spaces.

Byline: By Sinead Keller

NATURE lovers in Coventry have won a victory by persuading the city council to use a team of ecologists to advise on development in the city.

Cllr Susanna Dixon (Con, Wyken) spearheaded the campaign, backed by fellow ward councillor Angela Waters and Sheila King, from the Belgrave Residents' Association, who were concerned about the impact of planned developments on the environment in their area.

Now the council has agreed to draw on the expertise of a team of ecologists at the Warwickshire Ecology Unit in Warwick to advise on future developments planned for the city.

Jane Green, of Coventry Friends of the Earth, which backed the campaign along with Alan King, of the Coventry branch of the RSPB, said: "Coventry is home to a number of rare species such as the otter, kingfisher and water voles, as well as important butterfly, bat and plant species.

"The team of ecologists at the Warwick unit, who all have different specialisms, will advise on and oversee Coventry's green spaces and help find the best balance between development and natural open space.

"This arrangement is a very positive step forward and in some ways this pooled resource may achieve more than one city ecologist could."

Ecologists will now read the weekly planning schedules to check new developments don't have a negative impact on wildlife.

They will carry out surveys and monitoring of sites and ensure where a habitat has to be lost that there is some compensation, for example by replacing trees.

The council has also agreed to set up a point of contact for members of the public concerned about environmental issues and to bring back the council's biodiversity working group to draw together local expertise.

Cllr Dixon said: "We welcome the action the council has taken which is very positive and will go a long way to meeting our legal obligations to protect endangered species.

"But I think our long-term aim should still be to work for a dedicated ecology officer so the public have someone to speak to directly."

Last month a 700-signature petition was handed to Coventry City Council on the matter, after Cllr Dixon said the position of a dedicated city ecologist to advise on how to protect green spaces and wildlife had been vacant for the past seven years.


MS170108FIEL1 VICTORY... Campaigners (from left) Alan King, Sheila King, Jane Green and Cllrs Susanna Dixon and Angela Waters in fields near Farber Road, Walsgrave. Picture: Michelle Sperry
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 21, 2008
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