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The fight goes on! Petition launched to save community land

A BID by campaigners to get a green space in Frome secured as a community asset has been lost but those fighting to prevent a new housing development on the site say the fight will go on.

Friends of Easthill Field have launched a petition – ‘Save the World One Field at a Time – Save Easthill Field NOW’.

“Friends of Easthill Field is a group dedicated to preserve and fight for the continued existence of Easthill Field as a nature rich haven adjacent to Frome’s Easthill Cemetery,” said founding member, Bharati Pardhy. “The land at Easthill is unique, it has never been cultivated or fertilised. The site is rich in wildlife species and protected trees including veteran oaks.”

The petition – www.change.org/Save-EASTHILL-Field-NOW) has garnered 1,500 signatures in a week,

Mendip District Council’s cabinet voted in early-November 2020 to build more than 160 new homes across five sites in a partnership with Aster Housing – including up to 77 homes on the Easthill site on the A362 Warminster Road.

The council agreed to ‘pause’ the Easthill proposals in late-November following a backlash by local residents and environmental campaigners.

These residents – led by the Friends of Easthill Field – have been pushing for the site to be declared an asset of community value, allowing locals an opportunity to buy the land ahead of any new development. But Mendip District Council’s Asset of Community Value panel  have ruled that the application does not meet their criteria. 

“There was minimal evidence provided by the nominators, or in the letters of support,” the panel concluded. 

But Bharati Pardhy, told Frome Times, “It’s a limited group entitled to vote on the ACV panel. There wasn’t cross party representation – it was solely a Lib Dem vote. It may not have reflected a full council.”

“We could appeal, I’m not sure we will,” she said. “We’ve got other irons in the fire. We’ve got a very successful petition on the go.”

The petition reads, “Mendip District Council have earmarked Easthill Field for housing development. Following a campaign by Friends of Easthill Field the council have declared a genuine pause in their plans for development at Easthill pending further investigation and reports.

“We need to turn the pause into a full stop. 

“Easthill Field’s complex, interconnected habitats require thorough, appropriate ecological surveys conducted at and throughout the appropriate times of year. A full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) would be best practice.

“The Woodland Trust urge Mendip District Council to ensure Easthill Field is protected and state that “given the number of veteran trees on the site it cannot be viable to develop Easthill while adhering to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requirements” and the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

“Frome Town Council support our application to designate Easthill as an Asset of Community Value.

“The land at Easthill is unique, it has never been cultivated or fertilised and represents an optimal example of naturally sequestered carbon in a patchwork of interdependent habitats supporting a wide array of wildlife.

“We are facing a global climate and ecological crisis with catastrophic biodiversity loss across the planet. 20 million hectares of wilderness are lost worldwide every year. Easthill field is a clear example of local habitat under threat.

“Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council recognise this crisis and have both adopted a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency Strategy. In the face of the alarming loss of species and habitat in the UK the council must commit to increase the potential for carbon absorption in our local landscape and to increase biodiversity and bio-abundance. Protecting rather than destroying Easthill Field by putting a stop to the development plans fulfils this commitment and acknowledges that Saving Easthill field now is an important step in the global challenge we face.

“We urge Mendip District Council to

1. Commission a full EIA on the land at Easthill

2. Transfer the land at Easthill to Frome Town Council for the benefit of Frome and beyond.

3. Remove Easthill from the housing development plan in perpetuity and protect it from any future development.

Bharati said. Urging people to “Save the World One Field at a Time, Save Easthill Field NOW” it reads, “Friends of Easthill Field is a group dedicated to preserve and fight for the continued existence of Easthill Field as a nature rich haven adjacent to Frome’s Easthill Cemetery. It has been designated by Natural England as rare BAP* Priority Habitat Wood Pasture and Parkland.

“Mendip District Council have earmarked Easthill Field for housing development.

“Following a campaign by Friends of Easthill Field the council have declared a genuine pause in their plans for development at Easthill pending further investigation and reports.

“We need to turn the pause into a full stop. 

“Easthill Field’s complex, interconnected habitats require thorough, appropriate ecological surveys conducted at and throughout the appropriate times of year. A full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) would be best practice.

The Woodland Trust urge Mendip District Council to ensure Easthill Field is protected and state that “given the number of veteran trees on the site it cannot be viable to develop Easthill while adhering to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requirements” and the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

We need to turn the pause into a full stop. 

Frome Town Council support our application to designate Easthill as an Asset of Community Value.

The land at Easthill is unique, it has never been cultivated or fertilised and represents an optimal example of naturally sequestered carbon in a patchwork of interdependent habitats supporting a wide array of wildlife.

We need to turn the pause into a full stop. 

We are facing a global climate and ecological crisis with catastrophic biodiversity loss across the planet. 20 million hectares of wilderness are lost worldwide every year. Easthill field is a clear example of local habitat under threat.

Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council recognise this crisis and have both adopted a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency Strategy. In the face of the alarming loss of species and habitat in the UK the council must commit to increase the potential for carbon absorption in our local landscape and to increase biodiversity and bio-abundance. Protecting rather than destroying Easthill Field by putting a stop to the development plans fulfils this commitment and acknowledges that Saving Easthill field now is an important step in the global challenge we face.

We need to turn this pause into a full stop. 

We the undersigned urge Mendip District Council to

1. Commission a full EIA on the land at Easthill

2. Transfer the land at Easthill to Frome Town Council for the benefit of Frome and beyond.

3. Remove Easthill from the housing development plan in perpetuity and protect it from any future development.

* BAP – UK BAP priority habitats cover a wide range of semi-natural habitat types, and were those that were identified as being the most threatened and requiring conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).

https://jncc.gov.uk/our-work/uk-bap-priority-habitats/“

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