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Funding agreed for Exeter wildlife haven

Thursday, 8 September 2022 10:26

By Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

Northbrook Park in 2020 (Image: Exeter City Council)

Northbrook to become arboretum

Almost £290,000 will be spent on turning Exeter’s former Northbook golf course into a wildlife haven.

The city council’s executive agreed to allocate the money at its meeting this week, with £222,000 coming from developer contributions and the remainder from partners.

A consultation last year found that 96 per cent of people supported the idea of a wildlife arboretum – a space for wildlife habitats, trees and wildflower meadows – at the former course on Topsham Road.

When it closed in 2019 the land was due to be sold, probably for housing, but the council made a U-turn shortly afterwards – deciding to keep it as a protected green open space for the public.

After last year agreeing to progress the arboretum project with Devon Wildlife Trust, which will eventually manage the site, the executive was this week presented with a report outlining the next steps.

Explaining the importance of Northbrook Park, it said: “The park provides a strategic green link between two of our most important green spaces and performs a critical function for the movement of wildlife.

“It represents a natural green infrastructure connection for people to move between parks and traffic free routes into the Quayside, Marsh Barton and the city centre beyond.”

The report sets out a phased approach, with the first four stages to be completed by early 2024. Long term management of the site will then begin.

The work to turn the park into a wildlife haven and “tranquil community space” includes improved access and pedestrian/cycle routes through the site, tree planting and meadow and pond creation. There will be added benches and dog bins.

Opposition leaders from the Progressive Group (made up of the Greens, Lib Dems and one Independent) and Conservatives also welcomed the proposal.

Councillor Duncan Wood (Labour, Pinhoe) said: “I think it’s really important that we recognise this could have gone in a different direction. This could have been built on. It’s not, it’s being protected.

“More than that, it’s being enhanced and the protection and increase in that biodiversity, planting trees, is all good stuff and it’s all in line with what I hope to achieve within my [climate change] portfolio.”

Executive member for leisure, Cllr Josie Parkhouse (Labour, Pennsylvania) added: “I think it ticks all the boxes when it comes to physical activity and increasing physical activity within the city, so I really welcome this.”

Leader Phil Bialyk (Labour, Exwick) reiterated that the council has kept to its promise by retaining the site for public use. It's “nice to go through there without the fear of a golf ball coming towards me any more,” he quipped.

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