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Council to investigate loss of freshwater habitat at Foxhill

News that a much-loved freshwater habitat at Foxhill may have been lost to nearby construction work, has prompted Bath and North East Somerset Council to investigate.

Many Foxhill people hold fond memories of the spring which used to bubble up from a slope at the edge of Springfield Park on the Foxhill estate. In 2019, the charity Sustrans supported residents to establish a Spring Action Group with the aim of restoring the stream as part of a community project called Foxhill Futures.

Residents said at the time that they wanted the spring to be a peaceful spot and one where children could play and learn about nature. Action Days at the site involved clearing away litter, fixing bird boxes to trees and planting wildflowers suited to the wet soil.

The Spring Action Group also recorded the existence of palmate newts in the waters and took the picture below. The little amphibians are one of Britain's three native newt species and are identifiable from the black webs on their hind feet and the filament on the end of their tail.

A palmate newt at the Foxhill spring in 2019. Thanks to local resident Neomy Callas for the photograph.

Sadly it was discovered recently that the spring at Foxhill had stopped flowing, with just a dry bed marking the spot where aquatic animals and water-based plants once thrived. The video clip below shows the site as it is now.

A question on some people's minds is whether the construction work at nearby Mulberry Park could have altered the course of the spring underground. The work by housing association Curo to complete up to 700 homes on the former Foxhill Ministry of Defence base is a five-minute walk from Springfield Park. On the Foxhill Residents' Association Facebook group, one individual wrote that she had contacted the council with these concerns but it seemed to her that they "weren't that interested".

Elsewhere in Bath, the council's intention to build homes on a special natural habitat off Englishcombe Lane has proved controversial. The area, dubbed Tufa Field, features rare types of springs called tufa flushes which campaigners are keen to preserve.

In late August, the Bath Gazette published a short article on the lost Foxhill spring and contacted the council for a responding statement. On the 8th of September the council's Press Office released the following reply:

Councillor Tim Ball, cabinet member for Planning and Licensing, said: "A case has been raised with planning enforcement and will be investigated in line with the council’s enforcement policy. However, due to the complexities of the issue, this will take some time."

The location of the former Foxhill spring in relation to the Mulberry Park development can be seen here.

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