A wildlife trust is calling for a site under threat from development to be protected after the discovery of an endangered moth.

The bright-green Forester moth has been found on land in Maple Cross, where plans have been submitted to build two new warehouses.

The Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust are now calling for the species, which was last spotted 45 years ago, to be safeguarded.

BCL (Maple Cross) LLP, who submitted the planning application to Three Rivers District Council, says it is aware of the new information from the council and will review it in due course.

The council added that the information will be considered by officers ahead of the application being taken to the Planning Committee.

What is the planning application?

The applicants want to build on the empty greenfield land which is on the edge of an employment zone.

The proposals were intially rejected in 2019 but the applicants returned with a revised proposal.

Planning documents claim the warehouses, comprising a total of 16,115 sq metres could bring nearly 300 full-time jobs, in addition to construction jobs.

The warehouses are slightly lower and on a slightly lower footprint than when the council previously discussed the proposal.

The plans have so far attracted more than 200 objections.

Read more - Objections fly in after proposal to build warehouses returns

What has the wildlife trust said?

Matt Dodds, Planning and Biodiversity Officer at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said: “The discovery of this incredibly rare moth carries with it the legal obligation for the Local Planning Authority to ensure that its population is not negatively affected.

“They must ensure that the development is compatible with the survival of the species or be in breach of their legal duty”.

Forester moths feed on specific wildflowers and have suffered from habitat loss in recent decades.

It was listed as a ‘species of principle importance’ in 2006.

The moth at Maple Cross was spotted by local wildlife enthusiast Martin Parr.

Mr Parr, who last spotted the moth in 1992, says he was “amazed” when he saw it.

He said: “He said: “As I walked over the site, it was clear to see how important it is for insects. There were butterflies, damsel flies and dragon flies everywhere - it was literally buzzing. Then I spotted the Forester, I was amazed.

“It’s such a beautiful little moth and it certainly made my day.”

The moth was last seen in Hertfordshire in 1976 on the Trust’s nature reserve near Aldbury Nowers, near Tring.

Colin Plant, County Moth Recorder for Hertfordshire, said the moth in the last 25 or so years “has declined and contracted its range in Britain” and also become a “species of conservation concern”.

He said: “The caterpillar foodplant is present at Maple Cross and it is almost certain that this moth has established residency here. On this basis, the site can be regarded as having a regional level of ecological interest in planning terms.”

Local residents have until August 20 to comment on the planning application.

A spokesperson from Three Rivers District Council said: "This new information about the moth and its implications will be considered by officers ahead of the application being taken to the Planning Committee for determination in due course. 

"At this stage the application is still being considered and no recommendation has been made by officers. The applicant has recently been made aware via their Planning Agent."

A spokesperson from BCL (Maple Cross) LLP said: “The Local Planning Authority has informed us that further information representations have been submitted to the planning application in respect of an ecological matter.

"We await the receipt of this information and will be looking to review, so that we can respond in due course. We remain committed to working with all parties to bring forward the development of this employment site (already allocated within the Core Strategy) which will provide a number of significant economic and regeneration benefits  and employment opportunities to the District at a time of continued economic uncertainty due to the current Covid Crisis."

You can see the planning application here