With its roots in farming and coal mining, Cannock Chase is a town with a rich and varied history; and the houses on Lichfield road are no exception. Many of the buildings on that particular road can boast histories stretching back centuries, with the earliest starting life as modest coach houses back before the town developed much beyond a small rural settlement. Here remains snippets of uncovered history such as handwritten water receipts uncovered from crevices in walls dating as far back as the 1700’s, suggesting that this handful of houses out-date even that. Traces of this greener time still linger around this area, with the Mill Farm nature reserve providing a protected haven for a range of animals and plant life. With this in mind, I cannot help but wonder how much of these historical and environmental concerns have been taken into consideration when plans for the new mill farm build were confirmed when they could pose significant risk to the delicate surrounding areas. The developmental report drawn to estimate the environmental impact suggests that the foreseen pollution of both noise as well as air could increase significantly between now and the estimated project completion date of 2019. Those that intend to build upon this site are not only implying that the construction could significantly damage areas of historical and natural importance, but also that certain elements such as noise levels are predicted to overstep the limits of the law within which they are expected to operate.
According to HSE government sound regulations, lower exposure levels of 80dB can “gradually but permanently damage hearing, which can take effect after just a few days a week.” According to Apx. 9.A of the Mill Farm Development Environmental Statement, ‘Traffic And Emissions’, estimated total sound created by the site strip and earthworks alone could reach 85 decibels, with tipper lorries, dozers and vibratory plates all being the worst offenders. This noise is expected to peak at 83 decibels, with total external work and earthwork has been expected to reach 87dB. At best this is an extreme stretching of the regulations; at worst it is a blatant flouting of law. Not only is this the mill farm build pushing the limits of sound pollution for local residents who live a mere stroll across the road, but also this issue becomes a real environmental concern by posing a real risk to the foundations of the nearby historical houses. Little is known about the stability or durability of such old homes and their centuries old foundations, and these concerns aren’t addressed in the report, leaving the residents of Lichfield road wondering about the future of their fragile homes in the wake of such heavy machinery.
That is just the beginning, as once construction is complete, the development is expected to strain the constraints of environmental law still further. Furthermore, figures estimate that traffic emissions could rise from the level of 23391 Annual Average Daily Traffic on the Lichfield road in 2014 to around 26697 in 2019, an increase of over 3,306 cars per year in the space of five years. Not only would this huge increase of cars put strain on the traffic systems of Cannock town centre, but the increase in engines would contribute greatly to the pollution of air. This is especially damaging considering the building’s extreme proximity to a protected nature reserve. This is particularly concerning considering there is evidence to support that this nature reserve is not only home to a range of nesting birdlife including swans, but also a selection of bats. The protected brown long-eared bat that forages and migrates in areas surrounding the nature reserve. Unfortunately wildlife knows little of legal boundaries and although the building work skips around the skirts of the nature reserve itself, the knock-on effects of its proximity have yet to be addressed. It is entirely possible that fumes, noise disruption and human interference could damage the wild life as well as green environment around it. This map is taken from the statement itself, outlining the application build site on mill farm land and therefore suggesting that any damage caused by this construction would not come as a surprise, but has been considered a necessary sacrifice.
It appears that these plans to build a designer outlet village upon Mill Green land stay marginally within the confines of legal perimeters, but without taking into consideration the consequences upon the immediately surrounding areas. Whilst it can be considered a victory that the nature reserve itself is saved from direct building, can conservation ever truly succeed to its full potential if the air immediately surrounding it is going to be tripled in pollution and human interference?