Rookwood proposal brings improvements for Warnham Local Nature Reserve

Picture from Wikimedia

Horsham District Council have set out their improvement plans for Rookwood, which include considerable benefits for Warnham Local Nature Reserve.

The reserve is a regionally significant ecological resource with a 17-acre millpond, extensive trails through meadows and woodland, boardwalks over grassland and several bird hides, especially popular with families and photographers alike.

If the Rookwood proposal goes forward, the reserve could be expanded and benefit from a new landscaped gateway entrance, with possibilities for a much improved visitor centre, a new café and new car park to enhance the visitor experience.

In addition to this expansion, the land to the west of the nature reserve would now be released as public open space creating a new country park.

The council says putting natural habitats at the centre of this plan has been paramount. 

It says biodiversity of the site will be substantially increased with scope for re-wilding and enhancing wildlife networks, so that it would exceed Government biodiversity net gain criteria, in keeping with the scheme’s strong environmental aspiration.

In developing the current scheme, Horsham District Council has listened and incorporated the feedback from residents, community groups, local businesses and key stakeholders as part of an extensive consultation process.

Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture Councillor Jonathan Chowen said, “I would like to thank the local community for all their valuable feedback on our ideas which has greatly helped us shape them.

"I am pleased that following the extensive consultation, we are now in a position to consider an exciting plan that can create considerable protection of Warnham Local Nature Reserve and deliver so many improvements for the benefit of visitors there.

“This scheme will also further improve habitats for wildlife with green infrastructure very much at the forefront of our thinking, promoting environmental education and wellbeing and aligning with our overarching Wilder Horsham District nature recovery networks.

“If the site is allocated through the Local Plan, then we would be keen to consult further and work closely with residents, partners and stakeholders to develop ideas for what Rookwood could ultimately look like.

“At the heart of any development is the desire to ensure that nature thrives at Rookwood.”

In addition to the new improvements for the Reserve, the additional benefits of the scheme would also include a development providing sustainable new eco-friendly homes and a site for a new primary school with shared leisure facilities for the community.

There are also plans for a network of paths to increase cycling and walking.

It is hoped the development will deliver new funding which will enable the council to continue to safeguard key frontline community services for future generations across the whole of the district.

This proposal has been submitted by real estate advisors Avison Young for independent assessment by Strategic Planning Officers as part of the process for the council’s new 'Local Plan' that the Government requires it to produce.

The next version of the Local Plan will be published for consultation in the spring of 2021.

More information can be found on Horsham District Council's website.

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