Thursday, 14 November 2013

Dormice are sleeping

Dormice across the county, including in the hedgerows of Straitgate Farm, are now hibernating for the winter, but at least there are some people speaking up for them. Earlier this week it was pleasing to learn that someone had the right idea, someone valued nature, when an 11 year old girl spoke up for the endangered species at a planning meeting at Mid Devon District Council in relation to an application to erect a wind turbine.
Devon represents something of a stronghold of the dormouse in Britain, and we therefore have a particular responsibility to ensure that the County continues to provide a home for this fascinating little mammal. Fragmentation of woodlands, caused by either built development such as roads or agricultural clearance, results in isolated, non-viable populations of dormice, with little opportunity for re-colonisation (particularly problematic if hedges which connect woodlands are no longer present). Short distances, possibly as little as 100m, form absolute barriers to dispersal, unless arboreal routes are available to dormice... indirect evidence, from the losses of hedgerow length and declines in quality of hedgerows and woodlands that have occurred in the County over the past few decades, indicates that dormice have probably declined in a similar fashion.
Dormice, a European Protected Species, are rightly part of the planning process, and yet numbers are still declining as their habitat - ancient woodland and hedgerows - is being destroyed. Aggregate Industries will now have to jump additional planning hurdles if it is to quarry Straitgate and rip up two miles of ancient hedgerows, and will need to convince Natural England that:
The consented operation must be for “preserving public health or public safety or other imperative reasons of overriding public interest including those of a social or economic nature and beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment”; and
There must be “no satisfactory alternative”; and
The action authorised “will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range"
Here's the extensive Dormouse Mitigation Plan that was required by Mill Water School, in connection with its relocation to Bicton College. A new main school and sports hall will be built. The site of the hall was thought to be habitat for dormice, although as of September none had been found.

AI's plans for Straitgate are of course hundreds of times the area of a sports hall. Note again the three Natural England tests above. Note the "and" between each one...