In deepest sympathy at your loss .... (Part 47)

Martin & Mandy

The Planning appeals for North and South of Hare Street have now been completed and the 'will' of the people has been taken into consideration in the enhanced way as outlined in the Conservative Party manifesto (that's the promises they make, but don't keep, in order to get elected).

A combination of lack of County wide housing plan, developers with money and a desire to make more money, along with a government set planning policy that takes priority over Councils with no housing plan, has resulted in the appeal finding in favour of the developers, none of whom live in Buntingford and the flood gates for housing development in Buntingford have now being opened wide. There will be a deluge of houses and no infra structure to support them. Developers will kill our town for money.

Meanwhile at the end of The Causeway we have maneuvered our way through the bureaucratic process to get St Bartholomew's to the position it is now in, and what's more we will continue to do so. I've even submitted and had granted listed building consent for a wood store! I have no problem at all with the planning processes that I've been obliged to go through, in fact I even support it. We have been lucky enough to have collected a brilliant conservation officer on the way who has helped out on numerous occasions and made our task much easier. She has two faults and they are, she is over worked trying to force developers to look after the history of our country and her department is understaffed - I struggle to get time from her as she is being pulled and pushed by all the other sites she has to look after. She is however worth her weight in gold.

The planning process for Mandy & I has taught us things that we never would have considered for one second, we have learnt more about the building we are custodians of and more about it's history, and we are both proud of the fact that when we are gone St Bartholomew's will still be there and we will have left it in a better condition than we found it. That's certainly something that none of the planners, developers and land owners connected with the growth of Buntingford today can say.

In the coming years we can all watch the building and development of either side of Hare Street Road, the Sainsbury site and all the other sites that will come on line and have an impact on Buntingford. Most of the impact will be by chance, and will happen because of the poor planning process, which as far as I can see is delivered by people who have no physical connection with the town. If only the strict process and consideration that is required for a listed building were put into town planning we would be so much better off - but then that's why two developers before Mandy & I tried with St Bartholomew's, and failed, because they could not get plans approved that gave them a return on their money. So for interests sake and before it is lost to us I provide you here with some of the extracts from one of the bio-diversity reports that we have commissioned - I've only included parts of the bird and plant sections but you should get the jist of what's available on your door step until the developers get to work.

Several notable bird records were made during the site visits. In November there was a flock of over 100 yellowhammers 'Emberiza citrinella' and approximately 30 corn buntings 'Emberiza calandra' in a stubble field west of the cemetery. These two bunting species are Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) red-listed and Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species. The birds were seen going into the field boundary hedgerows and flying over the site. Both species were also heard in the fields to the north and east of the site. The surrounding landscape, with pastures for summer invertebrates, and arable fields left as stubble through early winter, provide food resources these buntings need. Other BoCC red list and BAP species recorded were Song thrushes which were confirmed nesting on the site, Spotted flycatchers where also were recorded during the breeding season, and are suspected to be breeding on site. Skylarks 'Alauda arvensis' were heard singing in adjacent fields and lesser spotted woodpecker 'Dendrocopos minor' were observed in the graveyard. Bullfinches 'Pyrrhula pyrrhula', a BoCC amber-list and BAP species, were recorded southwest of the site along the causeway.

With regard to plant life the graveyard on the site has a diverse species list. Several species are indicative of unimproved grassland (hoary plantain Plantago media, quaking grass Briza media, and meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis) as is the presence of old anthills. Unimproved grassland is an important habitat which has become uncommon in England. In addition to its floristic interest, this habitat is associated with abundant invertebrates which in turn are likely to support foraging bats and birds.

Maintenance for this habitat should comprise different cutting cycles for different areas in order to encourage a mosaic of grassland habitats. As low fertility is a characteristic of this habitat, no fertilisers should be applied and all grass cuttings should be removed to prevent build-up of rotting 'compost'. Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus is a non-native species which should be removed from the cemetery due to its ability to grow quickly and shade out other species with its large leaves. The seed bank will likely produce seedlings into the future necessitating ongoing management. The other woody species dotted throughout the graveyard (including hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and dog rose Rosa canina) should be retained but periodically controlled to ensure that it doesn't encroach into the grassland.

With regard to vegetation the following plants and trees can be found at St Bartholomew's and along and around The Causeway - ash, bird's foot trefoil, blackthorn, bulbous buttercup, cleavers, cocksfoot, common knapweed, common mouse ear, cow parsley, cowslip, crosswort, daisy, dog rose, field bindweed, germander speedwell, greater plantain, ground ivy, hawthorn, hedge bindweed, hoary plantain, hogweed, hop trefoil, ivy, marjoram, meadow buttercup, meadow vetchling, oxeye daisy, primrose, quaking grass, red clover, ribwort plantain, ryegrass, Spanish bluebell, star of Bethlehem, sycamore, upright brome, vetch, white dead nettle, wood brome & yarrow - see how many of these you can spot along and around The Causeway before it's all too late and the developers move in!

No pictures this month - all too sad for pictures when you're at a funeral....

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