LEGLAG   Leckhampton Green Land Action Group



Dr Elizabeth Pimley, committee member of LEGLAG, has compiled an ecological assessment of the whole area, this has been submitted to the local planning authority's Comparative Site.

The open countryside at Leckhampton on which development has been proposed on four occasions is an area of great value to wildlife as well as Cheltenham residents. The green fields around Leckhampton comprise a collection of semi-improved grassland meadows, several traditional orchards and small holdings bordered by numerous species-rich hedgerows and trees composed of native species (many of which are mature), with two streams traversing the area. Many of the hedgerows are ancient and date back before Enclosure, in the doomsday book of 1086 the settlement was divided among three landowners and recorded as Lechametone, meaning ‘homestead where garlic or leeks were grown’.  These rich habitats provide a refuge for a variety of wildlife as frequently recorded by local residents, these will be cataloged and added to this page. A data search from the Gloucestershire Environmental Records Centre revealed numerous wildlife records within the site and close proximity:

  1. Willow warblers

  2. Blue tits

  3. Great tits

  4. Cuckoos

  5. Goldfinches

  6. Yellow hammers

  7. Starlings

  8. Song thrushes

  9. Siskins

  10. Redwings

  11. Mistle thrushes

  12. Kingfishers

  13. Kestrels

  14. Greenfinches

  15. Adders

  16. Grass snakes

  17. Hedgehogs

  18. Badgers

In the JCS Sustainability Appraisal - C6 Land to the South of Cheltenham, the area was described as, ‘intimate rolling landscape, predominantly pastoral with improved and semi-improved pasture. Good hedgerow condition, and good proportion of orchard many displaying old over mature Peary pears. Good number of parkland trees and many veteran oaks along with other species. Small pockets of woodland dotted around the site. Area around Leckhampton displays unusual land use pattern with many small holdings, orchards and allotment/market gardens. Good brookline and associated tree cover. Overall this area displays a good mosaic of habitat types which could make mitigation difficult’.


Hedgerows and traditional orchards are listed as Priority Habitats under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and the preservation of these habitats within the site is therefore promoted. The current large scale development proposals would result in the loss of the old orchards and the associated species assemblage of plants and wildlife that has developed over the years. It is therefore recommended that the orchards be preserved and enhanced rather than destroyed and new ones planted elsewhere with the resulting loss of associated ecological features. The site contains numerous species-rich hedgerows and many of the hedgerows are important under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. The development will result in the loss of several species-rich hedgerows and hedgerows designated as important under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. The hedgerows contain a mixture of native species of trees and shrubs and provide habitat for foraging and shelter for a variety of species including bats, dormice, woodmice and other small mammals, slow-worms, grass snakes and a variety of bird species, some of which are of conservation concern.

During a LEGLAG bat walk this summer, several soprano and common pipistrelle bats were recorded flying along the hedgerows bordering Lott’s Meadow and Kidnapper’s Lane. More comprehensive bat activity transects have been undertaken by Hankinson Duckett Associates in 2010 and 2011, which recorded the following species:

  1. Common pipistrelle

  2. Soprano pipistrelle

  3. Noctule

  4. Natterer’s

  5. Whiskered/ Brandt’s bats

Most activity was recorded along linear features (hedgerows and tree lines etc.) especially those associated with tree lines/streams running north-south. Noctule and soprano pipistrelle bats are listed as a Priority Species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP). The hedgerows not only provide valuable commuting routes for all bat species, but two hedgerows at the western end of the site support non-maternity summer roosts for pipistrelle and Natterer’s bats (Hankinson Duckett Associates 2011). As all bat species are protected from deliberate killing, injury and disturbance and their roosts are protected from damage or destruction under Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(as amended) it is vital that these hedgerows be retained and strong artificial lighting along bat commuting routes be avoided.

The fields contain a number of mature trees, many of which have Tree Preservation Orders, and provide suitable features for roosting bats and therefore the area should be protected from development. For example, during an organised bat walk this summer, a common pipistrelle bat was recorded using one of the mature oak trees in Lott’s Meadow as a roosting site. The bat surveys undertaken during 2010 and 2011 by Hankinson Duckett Associates recorded the majority of roosting sites for various bat species in the northern and southern ends of the site.  These included:

  1. A small summer non-maternity roost for Natterer’s and pipistrelle bats within ash trees on the north-west and north-east boundaries respectively;

  2. A small non-maternity summer roost for common pipistrelle bats in the old water tower on the southern edge of Berry’s Nursery land adjacent to Lott’s Meadow;

  3. And an unconfirmed noctule roost within trees associated with the Hatherley Brook.

The badger survey recorded low levels of badger activity within the site and two active badger setts within the western part along Hatherley Brook (Hankinson Duckett Associates 2011). Over half the areas of highly suitable habitat for badgers (i.e. land to the east and west of Farm Lane) are targeted for development in the proposals. Badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and again the area should be protected from development, with longterm protection given to the setts and areas of good foraging habitat in the development proposals.

The reptile survey undertaken by Hankinson Duckett Associates in 2011 reports a maximum count of eight slow-worms on any one occasion within the Leckhampton site, which constitutes a medium population of slow-worms. Local residents have reported one or two slow-worms in the field by the footpath on the east side of Kidnapper’s Lane. The highest numbers of slow-worms were located in the north-eastern part of the site where the largest area of highly suitable slow-worm habitat is situated (Hankinson Duckett Associates 2011). However, this area is proposed for development as are other areas of good slow-worm habitat. Considering the limited degree of success of reptile translocations and the length of time needed for other less suitable areas of retained habitat to develop into really good slow-worm habitat, it would be advisable to retain the area of good habitat where the majority of slow-worms were found. All reptile species are protected from deliberate killing or injury under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and slow-worms are a UK BAP Priority Species. It is also possible that the slow-worm population size may have been underestimated as only six instead of the recommended seven surveys were carried out and a proportion of the reptile refugia were constantly disturbed by people, dogs and cattle thereby reducing the likelihood of reptiles using them and hence the number of reptiles recorded.

The wetland areas provided by the two streams and associated vegetation traversing the site provides suitable habitat for grass snakes and amphibians. Grass snake and common toad are Priority Species under the UK BAP. These wetland areas also provide some habitat, albeit sub-optimal for water voles, which are fully protected from intentional killing, injury or capture and their places of shelter are protected from intentional or reckless damage, obstruction or destruction under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and they are listed as a Priority Species under the UK BAP.

Several species of birds of conservation concern listed under the RSPB Red List were recorded on the site during the breeding bird surveys undertaken by Hankinson Duckett Associates in 2011, including skylark, song thrush, house sparrow and linnet, as well as 11 species listed under the RSPB Amber List. The loss of the orchards and hedgerows will reduce the available habitat for song thrush, house sparrow and linnet; while the loss of the semi-improved fields will result in a loss of habitat for skylark which require large areas of open space to nest thereby preventing further use of the fields by breeding skylark. While two breeding pairs were recorded within the site (Hankinson Duckett Associates 2011), as progressively more grassland fields are built on across the county and the UK, the available habitat for this declining species is diminishing with negative consequences for their long-term survival. Hence the pressing need to preserve areas of natural green open space such as the fields south of Leckhampton in order for the long-term survival of this species.

Ecological Assessment