A TREASURED meadow is under threat after a farmer was given permission to plough the land.
Campaigners in Keresley who launched a petition against the move to plough Somers Road Meadow said they feared it could lead to it one day becoming housing.
The concerns come as residents fight a separate plan to build on nearby green belt land between Tamworth Road and Bennetts Road South.
It was Natural England’s decision to give the green light to ploughing and the organisation said it had no grounds to prevent it because it would not have a significant effect on the environment.
But 250 people have signed the petition with lead campaigner Rachel Gering-Hasthorpe claiming locals should have been consulted over the decision.
She said: “The petition shows how many people care about our hay meadow, and about the wider issues of nature conservation and local democracy.
“The hay meadow is a beautiful place, with a lovely peaceful feeling about it. I walk in it most days, and see dog walkers, children and all sorts of people using it.
“There isn’t another field quite like it in the area and hay meadows are very threatened in this country.
“Natural England say they are here ‘to secure a healthy natural environment for people to enjoy’. Why are they allowing our hay meadow to be destroyed?”
She said the move could be a trojan horse for housing developments with one petitioner pointing to the fact Natural England’s new chairman Andrew Sells once founded a house building firm.
A Natural England spokesman said: “Somers Road Meadow is designated as a Local Wildlife site, giving it some local protection in the planning system, but with no statutory protection.
“While we have every sympathy for local residents, the lack of botanical interest within the area to be ploughed meant that a significant effect on the environment could not be shown, so under the regulations we had no grounds to prevent the landowner from undertaking the proposed works.”
The spokesman added Natural England had contacted the land owner as soon as it was advised ploughing would take place in breach of regulations.
Site visits established the grassland was not of high enough quality or connected to other species-rich land but the land owner voluntarily agreed not to plough a four-metre buffer around the site.