Stevenage wildlife site destroyed in error by council workers

PUBLISHED: 08:30 08 August 2018

Shackledell Grassland, once a haven for wildlife, has been destroyed by a council worker. Picture: Chris Woodard.

Shackledell Grassland, once a haven for wildlife, has been destroyed by a council worker. Picture: Chris Woodard.

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A wildlife site which was the only place in Hertfordshire where you could see a great green bush cricket – the UK’s largest insect – has been destroyed in error by council workers.

Shackledell Grassland was home to six species of bush cricket and three species of grasshopper, as well as butterflies, moths and wildflowers.Shackledell Grassland was home to six species of bush cricket and three species of grasshopper, as well as butterflies, moths and wildflowers.

Shackledell Grassland in Stevenage was a haven for wildlife, home to six species of bush cricket and three species of grasshopper – as well as butterflies, moths and wildflowers – but it has been obliterated by council workers who the local authority say made an “honest mistake”.

Environmentalist Chris Woodard said: “As far as the insects and plants go, the area is one of almost complete and utter devastation, with no sign of the rich diversity that existed there just a week or so ago.

“This is purely down to the total incompetence of the local authority’s officers, who seem incapable of reading the habitat management plan and understanding what is required.”

Chris is part of the Friends of Shackledell Grassland group, who help to maintain the site.

In 1998, he translocated crickets – six male and eight female – from a housing development site to Shackledell Grassland, and a colony was started.

He said: “The habitat was home to a huge range of insects and plants and was the jewel in the crown in terms of wildlife sites in the area.”

Chris has visited the site since it was destroyed and said: “I found one common cricket, but it’s clearly devoid of any significant wildlife. It’s been completely obliterated.”

Councillor John Gardner, the council’s executive member for environment, said: “This was an honest mistake and shouldn’t have happened.

“We are taking measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again, including developing a management plan specifically for Shackledell Grassland as part of a future application for Local Nature Reserve status.

“We created a significant extension to Shackledell Grassland seven years ago and know crickets and grasshoppers migrated into this area several years ago, so we will not have entirely lost their habitat.”

Tim Hill, conservation manager at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said the trust had worked with the council to develop a Biodiversity Action Plan for the town, which included a plan for Shackledell Grassland.

He said: “The plan included guidance on how to manage it appropriately for its significant botanical value and the species it supports, including the great green bush cricket.”

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