Saturday, 1 February 2014

"Quarry appeal rejected to protect wood's squirrels"

Aggregate Industries should not underestimate the presence of protected dormice in the ancient hedgerows of Straitgate Farm in its quest for sand and gravel.

AI would need to grub up nearly 2 miles of species-rich hedgerows, "all present on the 1840 tithe map", to quarry Straitgate.

In 2010, however, another minerals company thought it could do much the same thing to another protected species - by felling 15ha of woodland in Fife, habitat to red squirrels. However, the company's application for a sand and gravel quarry was thrown out on appeal. The applicants had tried to argue that the impact on the red squirrels would be temporary and that staged felling would enable the population to adjust their feeding and foraging habits. The Scottish Government planning appeals reporter, on the other hand, felt there was too much uncertainty to place significant reliance on this - it was unlikely that the remaining woodland would provide adequate space for the animals to maintain viable levels, and the appellants' contention that they would forage over a much wider area was based largely on conjecture:
While there would be some employment benefits and the proposal would help to meet the demand for sand and gravel, these would be measured locally. However, given the potential harm to a protected species, I am not satisfied that these factors significantly outweigh the natural heritage value of the site.
Of course, such species warrant protection - they are on the brink of extinction. When protection is enforced, numbers can improve - as this recent report on bats highlights. 

For the dormouse, however, matters look bleaker as its habitats come under continual pressure from development. In 2008, the UK reported on the conservation status of the dormouse. It stated that "the continued loss of hedgerows, particularly species rich ones, is a real problem" and declared that the Overall Assessment of the species was "Unfavourable – Bad and deteriorating. The species is in serious danger of becoming extinct (at least locally)".

Developers, however, don't care - their business is to turn a profit. But they ignore protected species at their peril - as another story demonstrates: Bat survey halts £15 million leisure complex.