The Cherry Orchard is a paragraph 55 project to provide a new dwelling and orchard business in Mongewell, Oxfordshire. The proposal aimed to enhance the landscape as well as promote biodiversity and develop and enhance the ecosystem.
The proposed site was situated on a disused area of land, with areas of rough grassland, overgrown scrub and wood piles. The site was located between a former dewpond called ‘The Lake’ flowing into the River Thames and a private road.
As with standard planning applications an ecology survey was required. A preliminary ecological appraisal was carried out and due to the sites overgrown nature and historic records further reptiles surveys were recommended. Some trees also required removal due to their condition and therefore these were assessed for their bat potential. Two mammal holes were also identified and therefore monitoring was recommended to see if they were active.
A total of 25 artificial refugia (0.5m2 roofing felt mats) were distributed throughout the construction footprint and the immediate surrounding areas due for soft landscaping, giving a total density of 23 refugia per hectare. Mats were checked seven times, in optimum weather conditions (9-18oC) for the presence of reptiles.
Trail cameras were installed to monitor activity around the mammal entrances.
All trees due to be impacted were assessed from the ground for their potential to support roosting bats.
One grass snake was recorded under a map adjacent to the lake. However, as a large area of the site was going to be landscaped into a cherry orchard and included features for wildlife, significant mitigation for reptiles was not necessary.
The mammal entrances on the site (used by fox) were retained and protected from construction.
All trees assessed for their potential to support bats were considered of either negligible or low potential for roosting bats.
Precautionary working methods, including directional site clearance were utilised to ensure reptiles were not harmed by the development proposal.
Both in reflection of the fundamental criteria of a paragraph 55 house and following the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework any opportunities to enhance biodiversity on site were sought. The inclusion of a cherry orchard, endorsed by NPPF 28 overall provided large biodiversity enhancement for pollinators. To further enhance the site for biodiversity, in conjunction with a detailed landscape plan various enhancements included:
- Enhancing the lakeside bank and immediate surroundings with wildflowers to promote its use by reptiles and for invertebrates.
- The sites boundary was diversified to utilise native local provenance species to provide a green corridor for wildlife such as reptiles to move onto the site from the surrounding fields and woodland.
- Felled trees and brash were used to create refugia piles in conjunction with the stag beetle loggeries to provide opportunities for not only reptiles but invertebrates and small mammals too.
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