Norfolk church told to live in harmony with wildlife

Provision will have to be made to ensure bats, birds, badgers and reptiles are looked after before controversial work to transform the site of a former hospital into a church can start, council officers have said.

Plans to build a church at the former David Rice Hospital site in Drayton were approved by Broadland District Council in March, despite concerns from families living nearby.

The scheme, backed by millionaire Christian businessman Graham Dacre, was finally given the go-ahead after a previous attempt to get approval for what are known as reserved matters, relating to the appearance, landscaping, layout and scale of the church, had been turned down.

However, the scheme will have to come back before Broadland District Council's planning committee on Wednesday because ecology surveys which have been carried out on the site, off Drayton High Road, have suggested the site could harbour reptiles and, potentially, bats.

Some people living nearby have complained to the council that the surveys have not been sufficient, particularly in relation to badgers, but officers at Broadland say attaching conditions will address the concerns.

Officers have recommended that the application is approved by members of the planning committee, but that, before work starts to build the church, a comprehensive 20-year biodiversity and landscape management plan must be drawn up for the whole area.

Officers said: 'This would be for the whole site and has the intention of seeking to enhance the special interest features which have been identified to date, namely populations of reptiles, breeding birds, species rich natural grassland, areas of lichen-rich grass heath and acid grassland, an assumed badger population and an assumed bat population.

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That plan, say officers, must outline how the applicant intends to plant native species to create foraging areas for birds and bats, while the possible presence of breeding birds means no vegetation can be removed between March and August until an inspection is carried out. And if work does not start within two years, then all the ecological surveys will have to be repeated before construction can begin.

• Are you battling against a planning application near your home? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email