MORE than 100 objections have been made to plans for a ‘digital exchange’ in Bournemouth’s Talbot Village.

The two-storey building would provide work space and digital infrastructure for the area’s “growing IT sector” and be built on land owned by the charity Talbot Village Trust (TVT).

However, the development would be sited just 240 metres away from Talbot Heath nature reserve – a Site of Special Scientific Interest and home to more than 70 species of birds and five reptile species.

Highmoor Farm, the land on which the proposed digital exchange would be built, is an “essential buffer zone” that protects Talbot Heath according to Nick Dobbs, who has been monitoring the area’s wildlife since 2014 and has submitted thousands of species recordings to the Dorset Environmental Records Centre.

His Facebook group, Preserve Talbot Heath has been campaigning to protect Highmoor Farm from development. The former grazing land is an “important foraging ground and corridor for badger, roe deer, hedgehog, bats, and many bird species”, Mr Dobbs said.

According to TVT’s planning application, prepared by Savills, the digital exchange would “not give rise to significant effects on the heaths”.

An ecology assessment submitted with the application states: “With mitigation applied, the development will not impact on any habitats of high ecological importance, but it does have potential to impact on some protected species depending on the timing of construction.”

Planning permission for the digital exchange is sought for five years, with the building set to make way for a bigger ‘digital village’ as part of the Talbot Project masterplan.

The digital exchange, intended to house start-up companies and small businesses specialising in cyber security, computer animation, virtual reality, and healthcare, would provide office space for up to 30 employees.

It would also provide high speed internet access to Bournemouth University and Arts University Bournemouth.

An “anchor tenant” has already been found to occupy the office space, according to the application.

“The [building] would provide in-demand work space and digital infrastructure to support the growing local IT sector. It also has the potential to function as a catalyst for the wider Digital Village and to support activities occurring at BU and AUB”, it states.

A spokesperson for Talbot Village Trust, said: “As one of Dorset’s leading benefactors which has supported the county for almost 150 years, having donated over £1million to charitable causes and local projects in the past year alone, we always have the community’s welfare at heart. The site forms part of a wider area allocated for education and office employment uses in the Poole Local Plan 2018 (Policy PP21).

"However, we acknowledge the concerns that have been raised in response to the Digital Exchange planning application and we will investigate these in detail. We look forward to working closely with the planning officers and all stakeholders during the next steps of the application process.”

As well as concerns for wildlife, objections have been made by residents to the disturbance and increased traffic caused by the development.

Joanne Phillimore, practice manager of the Village Surgery on Gillett Road, said she was also “very concerned” the new building would overlook consulting rooms and, therefore, “compromise patient confidentiality”.

Mr Dobbs said he hoped BCP Council’s planning committee would request Talbot Village Trust to undertake a “comprehensive species baseline impact study” prior to any development.

“Research is showing that public access to real nature on their doorsteps has enormous benefit in terms of public well-being and health. Who are we to deny such access to those in our society who arguably can least afford it,” he said.

Meanwhile, a large number of objections have also been made to plans by Arts University Bournemouth to install a temporary car park with 132 spaces on another part of Highmoor Farm off Purchase Road while contractors build new student accommodation.

Plans for the 300-bed halls were approved in 2017.

Nick Welch, chief operating officer at AUB, said: “As a temporary measure, a planning application has been made to provide parking on a limited basis to a select number of contractor vehicles that will be involved in the construction of our university halls.

“Throughout planning we have worked to minimise local disruption, changing plans where necessary to do so. We have consulted with key stakeholders and specialists to ensure that any plans minimise environmental impact, which is always a priority for our institution.”