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  • Writer's pictureOur Green Warrington

Peel Hall: an interview with campaigner and wildlife photographer, Ste Dodd

After years of campaigning to save this important natural asset from development, the land at Peel Hall remains under threat. It has been included in Warrington Borough Council's draft 2021 Local Plan with 1200 homes proposed, subject to suitable infrastructure from developer, Satnam Millennium Ltd. The land is classed as "developable". The site is also the subject of a public inquiry in connection with an outline planning application for housing development submitted by Satnam. The matter is with the Secretary of State and a decision is due before 9 November 2021.

We asked campaigner and wildlife photographer, Ste Dodd what this area brings to the community - and what its impact will be if it is lost.

Can you explain where Peel Hall is, its history and who has owned the land over the years?

Peel Hall is situated south of the M62, south east of Junction 9. To the south is Radley Farm and Radley Plantation, to the east is Mill Row and Cinnamon Brow and to the west, Winwick Road. In the mid 1980s Satnam Investments Ltd bought the site as agricultural land and it is classed as a "greenfield" site.

Warrington was designated as a New Town in 1968 and the Peel Hall site formed part of the original New Town Masterplan. The site was previously used as farmland. New Town development commenced in the early 1970s across the north of the town, starting with the Birchwood and Oakwood sites. By the end of the decade much of the New Town development east of the A49 Winwick Road had been completed, with the main exception being the Peel Hall site. The development corporation abandoned plans to build on the site generally. It considered it unsuitable because of problems associated with mining subsidence and it was regarded as extremely difficult to drain, as transpires from information recently obtained from the Cheshire Record Office.

Who does Peel Hall principally serve as a natural amenity?

Primarily, Peel Hall serves the residents of Poplars and Hulme, Orford, Winwick, Cinnamon Brow, Fearnhead and beyond but many people I meet travel from outside Warrington.

One of the benefits of being close to open, natural green space is that when things are not going well you still have something external to yourself that can offer calm and relief - even for a short while. You can escape and be in nature, appreciating the quiet and the landscape and the wildlife. It does not require reciprocation; it doesn’t demand anything of you. It’s just there. How important is Peel Hall to the local community in this way? What health and social benefits does it bring to them?

We carried out extensive research in preparation for the Public Inquiry about how Peel Hall contributes to residents’ wellbeing. We received many testimonies where residents had benefited from the restful and soothing atmosphere of our ‘Hall’. This was more evident during lockdown, where residents appreciated nature on their doorstep. Some recalled wandering around Peel Hall when difficult decisions had to be made, and some of those were momentous, one account confirming that the effects of Peel Hall were strong enough to save her life.

Tell us about the wildlife and flora that can be found there. What will be the impact on the local community from an environmental perspective if Peel Hall is lost?

The Warrington nature conservation audit, which was carried out in 1995, placed high value on the variety of habitats found on the site, the wide species diversity and the sheer size of the area. It is one of the few remaining uncompromised wildlife areas that we still have. The forum has identified at least sixty seven species of birds, seventy eight of moths and butterflies, three of amphibians, ten of mammals and two of bats on the site. Since 1995 the wildlife in Peel Hall has been affected by the systematic destruction of habitats around the site by Satnam.

My first encounter with Peel Hall was as a ten year old who went out looking for the "giant bird", rumoured to eat small children who dared to look for it. I had a good imagination then. As a schoolboy at English Martyrs we used the area for cross country running - it was a great place to grow up. Around about twenty six years ago I and my two stepsons planted oak and birch trees as part of The Mersey Forest project next to the site, so it’s always been a place of special interest in one form or another to me. I have walked it for years.

Ten years ago, I took my youngest son for a ramble. We had just got through the John Parr Wildlife Meadow, heading towards Radley plantation, when over the treetops a buzzard almost landed on us. It was heading for a post behind us but didn’t see us till it was a few feet in front of us. It put the brakes on and presented its full profile. It was a fantastic sight. I had never seen a buzzard round here before - what an introduction! I was ten years old again and I met my giant bird. I didn’t get eaten and Harry definitely made it home for tea. I was in awe. We walked to the edge of the plantation and watched a family of five buzzards at play. It was a great day and one that moved me. The very next day I went back, this time with my camera.

Over the following two months I spotted kestrels, merlins, hobbies, owls, sparrow hawks, tits, finches, robins, pheasant, partridge, wrens, tree creepers, woodpeckers and much more.

There is more wildlife in this area than there ever was, partly due to the John Parr Wildlife Meadow, partly due to The Mersey Forest addition, but mostly to the disused farmland that hides and feeds most of the small birds during the day. The number of raptors in the area shows just how healthy this land is and it doesn’t stop with the birds. Foxes, rabbits, fungi of every description, plants, flowers, wild herbs, insects galore all flourish in the Hall.

I have used Peel Hall almost daily since my encounter with Buzz.

In 1999 there was local outrage at proposals to build on the Peel Hall site. A petition was collected bearing 14,500 signatures, and there was a march to present it to the then mayor. The reason for that is simple. Peel Hall is one of the last remaining areas of open grassland, trees and pond in the area. It is important that we protect local sites better. It is important to protect green spaces such as the Peel Hall site, and to protect its wildlife before it is wiped out. This is especially important in areas where there has been intensive development, and where a site may be one of the few that remain. Not everyone wants to see nature tamed and confined. The ability to walk along footpaths in such an area, to watch birds and to enable children to play is especially important where there is no other place available locally. Peel Hall has been described as the lungs of North Warrington, reducing the negative impact of the close proximity to M62 and M6 motorways. It is and remains for now the last open wild space in north Warrington.

Why has Peel Hall been included in the draft Local Plan? The inclusion of Peel Hall in the Local Plan is a most confusing conundrum, considering the vast majority of North Warrington councillors have backed any and every resident driven campaign against development there from the beginning. As mentioned above, Warrington Borough Council has also supported protecting Peel Hall from development in the past, saying they never want to build there because they appreciate its importance. Quite a contradiction I would say! I accept this is "politics", but these sorts of actions destroy public trust. What I expect is integrity, honesty and above all courage - to stand up to developers like Satnam and insist that valuable green space is not built upon, ensuring it is protected for environmental reasons, for the health and wellbeing of the local community and for our future generations.

What will be the impact on the local community from a social, physical and mental wellbeing perspective if this site is lost?

Peel Hall's worth cannot be measured by its monetary value to a developer, it should be valued by what it brings to the community living around it. Over the last ten years I have seen, met and spoken to thousands of people using and enjoying the area for jogging, nature walks, rambling, dog walking and many use the area like myself for wildlife photography. The overwhelming sentiment that keeps coming back from everyone I meet is that the area is important for the wellbeing of everyone who lives near it and as an extra bonus for the buffer it provides us from the M62. I cant speak highly enough about the health benefits of Peel Hall as I am one of the many people who have benefited and I would be greatly affected by its loss, as would many other residents.

What would you say to developers and decision makers when they claim they will mitigate the loss of biodiversity in the area?

Satnam has no mitigation plans that would provide areas of equal benefit to the community, rather pointing to places already existing surrounding Peel Hall - but they are not wild open areas and even worse are largely neglected by the council, despite local residents' efforts to carry out work to improve these spaces themselves. The alternative locations they point to for community use will be under heavy encroachment from their proposed development and are likely to be lost or ruined shortly after completion of the Peel Hall development.

How can the public get involved in the fight to save Peel Hall?

The best place for information and or to support us would be by joining one of our Facebook pages below. Save Peel Hall woodland and wildlife against the development of Peel Hall. PROTECT PEEL HALL - STOP SATNAM BUILDING IN WINWICK, ORFORD & FEARNHEAD Any of these would keep you informed on the latest about Peel Hall.

You can also watch a video showing aerial views of Peel Hall here:

The Consultation process for the Local Plan closes on Monday 15 November 2021. If you want to have your say you must do so by this date. You can email your response to the Local Plan by using this email address:

Planning Policy & Programmes Team Phone: 01925 442826

More information on the Local Plan and how to respond can be found here


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1 Comment

Nov 13, 2021

This is an amazing article and it really captures what Peel Hall is about. The abundance of wildlife is amazing. Not long ago, in August this year, I was walking past the entrance to Peel Hall Park on the Enfield Park road side when a slight movement caught my eye - it was a family of 3 or 4 foxes just lay there in the grass but had a little peep at me as I passed. I couldn’t believe how lucky I felt seeing them at 9:30 in the morning and I felt a real privilege being a part of their world for a short time. I truly believe if this is to be developed, habitats such as this wil…

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