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The Green Fuse Fizzles Out

Saturday, 17th March 2001, West Yorkshire

cherry blossom DAFFODILS and cherry blossom are beginning to give a spring-like look to road verges, although today it feels distinctly wintery.

daffodils Next to the M1 between Horbury and Wakefield, there's a small remnant of countryside. I say countryside, but it's just a small neglected meadow, tucked between a motorway embankment and the backs of the houses. Even so, it has those basics that so much of our local wildlife needs to survive;
  • rough grass
  • bushes
  • brambles
  • trees
  • stream

This is the last spring that it will burst into fresh life.

Building Boom

meadow Fifty years ago, in the face of a building boom, a government scheme was launched to protect what were called Green Belts around cities. These were intended to preserve the distinctness of communities and to preserve the character of both town and country.

Fifteen years ago, Wakefield Council produced its own Green Plan which aimed not just to preserve what was left of ecological diversity in this crowded county, but also, where possible, to identify and create new ribbons of habitat to link the isolated remnants together.

These green corridors, the plan suggested, would ensure that wildlife didn't become isolated. The idea was that birds, animals and wild flowers would be able to move freely, without barriers, and colonise new areas. The plan suggested it wasn't good practice to put wildlife into a ghetto, cordoned off from the wider countryside by roads and buildings.

It relied on goodwill and the erroneous assumption that all of us want to live in a greener world. But it was a scheme with not legal standing. A watchdog with no teeth. A watchdog that has long since ceased even to bark.

When a scheme like this is approved locals inevitably hint that money must have changed hands. But that's just idle rumour, there's probably a very good reason for getting rid of this last patch of green. For whatever reason, it is to go, and, sadly, there's nothing unusual about this kind of development. It's just part of a more widespread move to build on any green field to the west of the city.

Next year there will be fifty houses on this, the last meadow visible from the road as you pass between Wakefield and Horbury. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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