Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The significance of the humble dormouse - a European Protected Species

So now 'habitat for dormice' can be added to the list of reasons why Straitgate should not be quarried. As posted last week, Aggregate Industries' ecological consultants SLR have found evidence that the hedgerows at Straitgate are a habitat for dormice - a European Protected Species - a species estimated to number just 45,000 in England and Wales - a species protected under the Conservation of Habitats & Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

This is an important development. It will not be up to Aggregate Industries or its consultants to decide whether phased working or advanced planting or anything else would give enough protection to the dormice present. AI will instead need to convince Natural England that something as invasive as quarrying - tearing up some 2 miles of ancient hedgerows - would be acceptable in an area providing sanctuary to such a rare animal. Natural England states that for an activity likely to result in disturbance or killing of a European Protected Species or damage to its habitat a 'licence' would be required. "Licences for activities prohibited under wildlife legislation are only issued for specific purposes, where there is valid justification". Justification? It must be demonstrated that:
the project is for the purpose of preserving public health or public safety or other reasons of overriding public interest, and there is no satisfactory alternative, and the action will not be detrimental to the population of the species
Could this impact on AI's plans? Well in 2010, dormice impacted on Morrisons' plans, when planning officers recommended refusal for a £12m supermarket and football ground in Wadebridge because "there [was] a reasonable likelihood of dormice being present". But whereas evidence has been found at Straitgate, in Wadebridge it was enough that dormice were "spotted 2km away".