Forest path plan ‘would damage fossil site’ claim

Objector: Sarah Pennie
Objector: Sarah Pennie

Widening a pathway to a forest site would damage a valuable fossil site, say campaigners.

Todmorden Town Council’s development was last night considering an application, which will later be determined by Calderdale Council, to widen an existing track over common land and the construction of a new section of track over a farmer’s field to allow access to Bearnshaw Forest, Flower Scar Road, Todmorden.

Steven Abbott Associates, in a report compiled for applicant Mr Terry Chadwick, of Bearnshaw Tower, argues the access track is a recognised mountain bike toute and widening it will allow access to the forest to carry out thinning, felling and maintenance in accordance with the Forestry Management Plan.

It allowed access from a windfarm track, keeping vehicles off the other routes, which had been considered but discounted largely because of the tight geometery of existing roads.

It was not considered the path idening would result in any damage to the ecological and wildlife importance of the common land space, says the report.

But objectors beg to differ and Mrs Sarah Pennie was set to put the case against the application at last night’s meeting.

She said the application should be rejected because of the serious damage to an important part of the Todmorden Moor Geology and Heritage Trail.

As part of Pennine Prospects’ £2 million Watershed Landscapes project, the Todmorden Moor Restoration Trust and the West Yorkshire Geology Trust were responsible for surveying and interpreting the Geology and Heritage Trail on Todmorden Moor. This has been established on the ground and geology walks, formal and informal, take place there regularly.

“This application asks to widen the colliery track, the old tramway from Sandy Road colliery to the edge of the common land. This tramway is an integral and important part of the trial – in fact probably the main reason for its existence. Our first objection therefore is the loss of a vital part of the trail under the proposed widening,” she said.

“Secondly, the track is a very important fossil site. In fact one so important that last year a fossil that proved to be a new species of 310 million year shark was identified from the Sandy Road site. The fossil has now been properly researched and written up in the academic press.

“Even without dramatic new science, the shales and the concretions found along the tramway track are valuable fossil grounds. Fossil finds are close to the surface and sides of the track. If the track is widened and resurfaced all this will be lost – no longer accessible – and a valuable scientific and educational resource will be lost.”