Talbot Heath lies largely unnoticed on the outskirts of Poole in Dorset. Once upon a time it formed a seamless part of the famous expanse of heathland familiar to Thomas Hardy and his contemporaries. Nowadays it’s sliced apart by bypass and railway to north and south, and nibbled away at by encroaching residential developments to the east and west. The sea of heathland has become an island here.
Most of the locals clearly love this precious green (and brown) open space but its close proximity to human habitation regularly puts the heathland flora and fauna at risk from fire and other degradations. The effects of arson in particular, but also the predations of local cats, litter and path erosion present a considerable threat to this Ramsar and SSSI designated site.
The local borough council in their wisdom recently approved a planning application to extend a housing development in the north, onto farmland which currently serves as a buffer between urban and heathland areas. This decision was controversial for several reasons, but especially because it appeared to override a government directive which prevented new developments within 400m of heathland sites.
The RSPB and other conservation bodies became worried that this development might set a dangerous precedent and the decision eventually went to a Public Inquiry. As part of their submission to the Inquiry I was asked to document the site photographically for the RSPB and their partners at Natural England.
Following 3 visits to the site in late spring 2011 I delivered a library of 300+ images, depicting the Talbot Heath landscape, its flora & fauna, human visitors, and urban effects.
Update: In February 2012 the proposed development was refused permission by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.