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Gloucestershire Business News

SPECIAL REPORT: Bye-bye Nailsworth? FGR's big move update

Ecotricity has blown the dust off its 2017 bid to demolish Forest Green Rovers' New Lawn stadium in Nailsworth, with a formal resubmission for the work now before Stroud District Council.

The plan will see the stadium, built in 2006, disappear and, in its place, up to 95 homes and 0.11 hectares of space for community uses, as well as "landscaping, open space, associated access, parking and infrastructure".

It is also pivotal to Ecotricity boss Dale Vince's masterplan to elevate English Football League club Forest Green Rovers to Eco Park, the £100m brand-new stadium currently being prepared at nearby Eastington.

But with the principle of development for the existing ground already agreed, Ecotricity's plan for the new use of the land accessed from Another Way may still face bumps in the road - from fears of snail-paced traffic to the consideration of actual snails.

In December, Ecotricity submitted a thumping 315-page transport document which acknowledged the time gap since the original bid and sought to update matters.

The assessment concluded: "the proposed development will not result in a material adverse impact upon the safety or operation of the surrounding local highway network. Therefore, it is acceptable in highway and transport terms, and consequently, it is concluded that there are no significant highways and transport reasons that should preclude the GCC from recommending approval of this planning application."

But local opposition remains. Voicing "serious concerns", Nailsworth Town Council has now told planners that the local plan identifies the site for 80 dwellings, while the proposed 95 units is "significantly more"; Nailsworth is a priority flood risk town, the council urged, and the bid "must demonstrate how it will mitigate increased flood risk from surface water drainage".

As well as citing concern for the capacity of local schools and GP lists, the town council also wants to see a community partnership with Ecotricity on community-led housing and is seeking more clarity on what the "community use" section of the development would deliver, adding: "[It] currently has an electricity substation on it. It's very hard to work out what community use this land might be put to."

The council added: "The removal of the New Lawn itself will result in a further loss of amenities which include the only blood donation location possible in the town, conference rooms, the historic football club and football pitch, and related employment. All of these will be completely lost, with no equivalent facilities available anywhere else in the town."

Any anticipation that local residents would relish quieter Saturday afternoons also appears unlikely: alongside the Town Council's fear that the development could lead to 200 more road users on Forest Green's single approach road from the town centre, several neighbours to the scheme have told planners that they fear heavier traffic on any day of the week.

A Collier's Wood resident said: "The resubmitted travel report has not reviewed the impact of potentially 200 potential cars driving along Tinkley Lane, which will not cope with this scale development in this location. Many residents use [that] road to access the M5 for work and the new Tinkley Gate National Trust owned Woodchester Park. The travel report includes some updates to monitoring peaks but post Covid-19 it's important that all days of the week are monitored."

A resident of neighbouring Highwood Drive, which borders the development, warned of the possible "permanent loss of habitat for endangered slowworms, lesser horse shoe bats and common lizards that we see daily during warm months, not mentioning larger mammals like deer and foxes."

There is also the small matter of Helicella itala, or the heath snail, to those who know their malacology.

Nearby Bunting Hill has been identified as a site for this rare gastropod and while Nailsworth Town Council wants to see universal bird boxes at the development that will encourage all manner of birds, not least swifts, it also hopes that a provision could be made for a biodiversity net gain for the Bunting Hill, which has been identified as a 'Key Wildlife Site'.

The heath snail, identified at this location, is fond of limestone grassland and is notable for its use of "love darts" which, as a bizarre element of the species' mating ritual, it fires at its partner.

Having moved at a very slow pace on the project since 2017, Ecotricity is presumably hoping that plans will now move quicker  than a snail's pace, but wildlife concerns for the exit of world's first vegan club look likely to be paramount in any final details for the scheme. 

No date is known as yet for any decision.

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