| Friday 14th March
2008 | Issue 624
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North Wales campaigners who have fought a fourteen year battle to stop plans to develop a 50 acre council-owned wildlife haven and community space on the edge of Bangor, Gwynedd are nearing victory.
Rare fungi found recently at Eithinog and Brewery Fields by a veteran of two camps evicted violently by police in 1998 (See ScNEWS 172/173 & 178) have finally brought Gwynedd Council’s proposed housing plans to a halt. This turnabout comes shortly after their development had been given the green light by the UDP Inquiry Inspector last November. Campaigners are now awaiting a formal announcement by the council, which would mean 83% of the original area being preserved, hopefully to be managed as a Nature Reserve by a local community trust.
The long campaign, conducted variously by Gwynedd and Môn Earth First! in conjunction with and other groups and the local community, has seen many twists and turns: direct action against the council and developers, community marches, nature events, Bangor councillors giving evidence to undermine residents’ town green applications, and use of violence by North Wales police to break lock-ons and a bulldozer to evict a tunnel. This culminated in a 1998 Gwynedd Council commitment to establish a nature reserve being reversed in 2004 and the reinstatement of large-scale housing plans.
However, community anger at this last council U-turn persuaded it to agree to conduct an ecological appraisal of the site - which found that much of Eithinog & Brewery Fields crossed the grassland fungi SSSI threshold. In consequence, a large part of the proposed development was dropped in 2005, although seven acres of ecologically sensitive grassland recommended for conservation were still earmarked for housing. The council’s own biodiversity team acknowledged that its development would jeopardise the integrity of the whole site.
The Countryside Council for Wales has now stepped in, and although some further development will happen, it says it should be confined to five acres of degraded land. All the open space used for generations by the surrounding community is to be preserved and the land possibly transferred to a local trust, who – if this comes about - would manage it in conjunction with conservation bodies. A big SchNEWS thumbs up to the people concerned for their efforts in saving Eithinog & Brewery Fields to be a community asset for future generations.
* For a campaign history lesson, see www.eithinog.org.uk/history.html
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