Rare birds threaten hotel plans

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Plans for a luxury 43-bedroom hotel on Drake’s Island in Plymouth could be put on hold following the discovery of a group of rare birds.

Councillors are set to make a final decision on whether development can start on the historic island, but with a colony of little egrets now in the picture officers feel that the risk to wildlife is too high and have recommended that the latest application is refused.

This is the second occasion that Rotolok Holdings has applied for permission to convert the island’s listed buildings into a hotel complete with bar, restaurant, spa, gym and swimming pool.

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Unsure on how the proposed £10m scheme would affect wildlife, Plymouth city councillors originally rejected the plans to revive the derelict island in January 2013. A revised proposal was submitted a year later but has taken another 12 months for it to be considered.

Wildlife and conservation groups are worried about the birds’ natural habitat being disturbed.

The Plymouth Herald reported that a letter of representation from Natural England said: “If the development were to result in disturbance, this may result in the complete loss of the breeding colony from this site and communal roost rather than a reduction in numbers of birds present.”

Concern has also been expressed by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Cornwall Wildlife Trust while The Environment Agency has reservations regarding potential flooding and drainage from the proposed energy from waste plant.

Councillors will review the planning officer’s report next week which states that Rotolok and the council have been unable to agree a way forward.

Rotolok managing director Sean Swales told Radio Plymouth: “It is very very difficult to predict how the birds might react and where they may relocate themselves if they are disturbed sufficiently to allow them to leave the island.

“The evidence that we have obtained is quite clear that there will be no detrimental impact upon the protected area for the birds.”

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