Monday, 29 September 2014

Dormice and hedgerows

Dormice are a species on the edge of extinction and are heavily protected - there is a known population at Straitgate. For those concerned that archaeological trenching will destroy any of their hedgerow habitat, the method statement agreed between SLR and DCC will have made clear that the contractors cannot remove any length of hedge without prior checks for dormice or their nests by a licensed ecologist. Obviously, any hedgerows that are removed must be rapidly restored to ensure habitat connectivity is maintained; planning permission is not a done deal - these are pre-planning investigations.

Aggregate Industries plans to grub up almost 2 miles of these ancient Devon hedgerows - some 4 metres wide or more. There are strict rules in providing compensatory habitat for dormice, and earlier this year AI planted trees around the site. Since the company has now revised its extraction area, a long length of 'hedgerow' is now in the wrong field; referred to previously in - Aggregate Industries' answer for the dormice - an 'escape route'. This entire length will now need to be replanted in the right place; one year of growing time has been lost.

By our reckoning, AI's newly planted area of saplings barely matches the area of ancient hedgerow at risk; saplings that will, by the way, take many years to provide any sort of dormice habitat. This is what Natural England and an ecological consultant say on the subject of compensation, respectively:
Area provided should exceed losses in potentially high impact cases as the acceptability of new habitat to dormouse is not predictable… Planting of replacement habitat should begin as early as is practical in the works programme as it will take several years before areas become utilisable by dormouse both in terms of structure and food supply.
In fact, where significant impacts are predicted there will be an expectation that compensation will provide an enhanced habitat (in terms of quality or area) compared with that to be lost. Compensation should also remedy any loss of connectivity brought about through the development.
Digging a quarry can’t be anything other than high impact to dormice. So where's the enhanced habitat?