‘From a green oasis to a carbuncle’ – huge opposition to plans for hillside housing

A photograph of Severus Tower which shows the greenery which surrounds it. Photographs: David Hornshaw
15 Oct 2017 @ 7.01 pm
| Environment, Housing

Plans to build houses on a unique green space in York have attracted more than 140 objections from York residents.

The proposal, by Yorkshire Housing and Strategic Team Group, would see 43 affordable homes built on Severus Hill, off Bouthwaite Drive in Holgate.

This former reservoir, long overgrown with trees, shrub and grassland, is a designated Site of Importance to Nature Conservation, and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust consider it a nature reserve.

Many residents oppose plans to build over one of the few open spaces in the area. Its distinctive water tower would be untouched by the housing development.

‘Huge loss to wildlife’

The hill can be seen from miles around

Typical of the comments is one from Caroline Neale, of Turnberry Drive, who characterises the proposal as ‘From a green oasis to a carbuncle’.

She stated: “It will be one of the highest developments in the city and visible from all of the key tourist sites – eg Bar Walls and Minster.

“It is going to be a monstrous carbuncle and detract from the beauty of York city wide.”

This aerial view taken from Bing Maps, shows the wooded area grown around the tower, now earmarked for housing

One of the residents leading the objections to the plan is Jane Levy. She said the wildlife seen in the area included bird species such as sparrowhawks, tawny owls, woodpeckers and waxwings.

Foxes, hedgehogs, voles and bats also thrived in the habitat.

“To totally destroy such a unique site in an area where few undisturbed woodlands exist, would be a huge loss to local wildlife and local residents, especially those living in the flats close by that have no gardens,” she said.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has put forward a holding objection to the application “due to the destruction of a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) and inadequate mitigation or compensation”.

‘Frankly abhorrent’

A different view of the landmark

Many residents have lodged objections to the plan with City of York Council, ranging from the loss of green space and wildlife to the impact on already congested roads. Here is a selection of their comments:

Having been born and raised on Poppleton Road, and lived here for over 40 years, the view over to Severus Hill is magnificent. There are too few green spaces/wildlife sanctuaries within York, and demolishing it just to make a profit is quite frankly abhorrent.

– Ann Hall

The plans for this development are nothing more than environmental terrorism and would destroy a precious habitat for wildlife. An urban wilderness such as this is all too rare and should be protected rather than razed to the ground to make way for a housing estate that would resemble ‘Alcatraz on the hill’.

– Mr A Burton, Winchester Avenue

I believe the granting of planning permission to build on this important piece of land would be a form of vandalism, and a very poor message to future generations.

– Gail Heslinga

I run a hedgehog hospital in the city and I know that there is a population surviving in this area, along with a wealth of other wildlife. This woodland and grassland is a vital part of their habitat, without which these species may fail to thrive in York.

– Emma Farley

Due to its height and domination of the skyline of York local residents living in the streets surrounding the site will have their lives forever blighted.

– Glen Gears, Winchester Grove

If building on such a historic site and land mark is allowed here will mean no area in York is safe.

– Stuart Graham, Beckfield Lane

Bomb site

The hill overlooking existing houses

A further complicating factor is the possibility of unexploded bombs on the site.

It was hit by shells dropped by the Luftwaffe during the big air raid in April 1942.

A specialist survey states: “The ARP records identify that one HE bomb struck the site and exploded with another being recorded as unexploded (a UXB). A further three HE bomb strikes and two UXBs are recorded within 300m of the Study Site boundary.”

There is, therefore, a ‘medium/high risk’ of unexploded bombs on site which could be disturbed by the works to build the houses.

You can see the plans, and add your own comments at the City of York Council planning portal here