The Story of City of York Council’s Cycle Path Planning Application Across Rawcliffe Meadows SSSI

Following the announcement that Rawcliffe Meadows and Clifton Ings were to become England’s newest Site of Special Scientific Interest, we had hoped that City of York Council would be celebrating the protection of an important part of York’s heritage – and the fact that local volunteers had done much to achieve this…

Alas this was not to be. Having submitted their very own planning application claiming that Rawcliffe Meadows had no biodiversity interest and no conservation designations (NB it has been mapped as a Local Wildlife Site in each incarnation of the ever-changing Local Plan), the Council decided to withdraw its 2013 planning application for another cycle path across Rawcliffe Meadows, after Councillors were asked to call it in, due to lack of biodiversity evidence on their part.

Although the path would cross the edge of the floodplain, Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows estimate that about 700 square metres of SSSI grassland would be permanently lost or damaged for very little public benefit.

We would like to point out that Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows was set up back in 1990 to work with Sustrans in enhancing the environs of the Route 65 cyclepath. Many of our volunteers are keen cyclists and for nearly a quarter of a century we have worked hard to encourage public access to, and enjoyment of the site. But we don’t believe the Council has a right to build another cycle path regardless of the damage to what is now recognised as a nationally important habitat.

A 21Mb zipped file of emails relating to the planning application was made available as a result of a Freedom of Information request to City of York through What Do They Know. This illustrates, amongst other things, how:

  • transport and development planners at the Council lack any comprehension of ecology or ecosystems
  • are economical with the truth i.e. claiming no motorcycle abuse on the Ings whilst this has been reported to them, and the Police, regularly over the 23 years, most noticeably two cases to the Police in 2013
  • transport and development planners at the Council don’t carry out full and open consultation unless forced to do so
  • the planners repeatedly describe  this nationally important wildlife habitat as ‘grass’ – a complete misnomer emphasising their ignorance

and much more…

We’ve no idea what will happen next but suggest all planners and councillors involved in planning decisions at all local authorities receive suitable training. Some is actually provide online and at no cost by the Open University such as ‘Introduction to ecosystems’.

Grassland with abundant great burnet – a key feature of Clifton Ings & Rawcliffe Meadows SSSI – on the route of the Council’s proposed new cycle path
Grassland with abundant great burnet – a key feature of Clifton Ings & Rawcliffe Meadows SSSI – on the route of the Council’s proposed new cycle path

About greatemancipator

Researcher and practioner in matters relating to egovernment, government ICT and their approach to the citizen.
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