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Norton residents fear eco-catastrophe in popular beauty spot
1:50pm Wednesday 13th March 2013 in Local
PEOPLE in Norton are going batty about plans for a popular park which they say could cause an eco-catastrophe.
Mary Stevens Park, which attracts around 900,000 visitors every year, is the subject of an ambitious bid for lottery cash to pay for a host of improvements.
A planning application has been submitted as part of the bidding process, but a Norton woman claims tree felling could damage habitats which would take years to recover.
Steph Simpson, from Stanley Road, said: "These are mature habitats with established wildlife, we are going to be left with an empty, barren space for a number of years. I don't think that is right."
Mrs Simpson, aged 45, says she is concerned about bats which she says roost in trees earmarked for felling.
A planning report by URS Infrastructure and Environmental Limited says there is a high potential for roosting bats in the park but after two surveys they found no evidence to prove the animals were living in the park.
However the report goes on to say "the timing and amount of activity recorded in the parkland indicated that the site could contain roosts.
"In accordance with Bat Conservation Trust guidelines, any felling of trees or the removal of large limbs should be preceded by a thorough inspection by a suitably qualified bat worker."
Mrs Simpson is also worried by proposals to cut down a line of conifers which planners say enclose and restrict full access to the war memorial near the iconic main park gates on Worcester Street.
Heather Rogers, chair of the Friends of Mary Stevens Park, insisted the project is in its early stages and there is no threat to wildlife.
She said: "I am a great nature lover and I have no concerns. If we get the money we will have to concentrate on the gates.
"The war memorial needs to be more prominent, the Royal British Legion has asked for the whole area to be renovated, this would make it a very attractive feature."
Campaigners have already notched up their first success after the withdrawal of controversial plans to use silt dredged from the park's lake to build large mounds, called bunds, for spectators to stand on next to football pitches on neighbouring Swinford Common.
Anti-bund protestor, Joan Cosnett, from Severn Road, said: "It is a victory for common sense, people were very annoyed, this is definitely an achievement for the small person."
The planning application, which includes the long-awaited creation of a permanent cafe and refurbishment of the main gates, will be considered by Dudley's development control committee in the coming weeks.