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TV naturalist Chris Packham denounces Derby cycle track plans as a "wanton act of vandalism"

Springwatch presenter enters ongoing row between nature lovers and Derby Council over Pride Park cycle track

TV presenter Chris Packham has joined wildlife groups in the ongoing protest over plans for an extended cycle track through The Sanctuary Bird Reserve in Derby.

The television personality said that losing or destroying the wildlife reserve “would mark a vile act of wanton vandalism” dubbing the reserve a “treasure”.

The plans for the cycle track, which is to be part of Derby’s new £27m Pride Park Velodrome development, have yet to be finalised following a series of objections by a coalition of 15 of Derbyshire's wildlife groups including: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Derbyshire Ornithological Society, the local RSPB group and Derby Natural History Society. 

As we reported in November redrawn plans for the cycle path which reroute the track along two sides of The Sanctuary, rather than through it continue to be opposed by wildlife groups.

Tim Burch, conservation manager for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said the Trust will continue to oppose the cycle track as a matter of principle.

“It still sets a dangerous precedent where a council that set up a nature reserve is now planning to potentially destroy 20% of it," 

A photo on the Hands Off The Sanctuary Bird Reserve at Pride Park, Derby Facebook page, demonstrates the coalition's fears for the reserve. Showing a map of the plans, the page claims that following development the 4.5 hectares of wildlife reserve there currently will be reduced to 1.6ha.

Packham told the Derby Telegraph that the wildlife reserve is a highly important piece of protected land and that it needs to stay that way - highlighting the relative shortsightedness of the cycle track project.

Packham said: “The Sanctuary needs to remain secure as an invaluable and important reserve for nature.

“Not ‘any old nature’ but a unique assemblage of plants and animals many of which are nationally endangered.

“It is an oasis of wildlife that is accessible to many and it cannot simply be removed and replaced.

“It is a treasure and short-sighted and short tendencies like this should not be allowed to destroy it.

“It is a natural reserve, a designated scrap of England which has been recognised as worthy of consent.

“That does not suddenly evaporate just because someone has a new idea.

“Its loss would mark a vile act of wanton vandalism and who would want that on their conscience?”

The wildlife groups’ opposition to the plans will have taken a boost with the support of Peckham, and the Derby wildlife coalition are quick to point out that their reasons for opposing the plans are not directed specifically at cyclists.

Nick Moyes, from the coalition, said: “We do not want to be in conflict with cyclists but people maybe do not realise this is a unique bird reserve that would be destroyed should the council give planning consent.

“There is land at Moorways which would be far better for a cycling development, cost less money and be less work.

“We are delighted to have someone of Chris’s stature supporting us. He certainly hasn’t held back in his words.”

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