Monday, 12 October 2015

But whilst AI takes a shine to GCNs, it's lost interest in bats & dormice at Straitgate

Aggregate Industries now wants to get away with NOT planting the 10,547m2 of trees that would have been "primarily managed for dormice" 8.257 - the trees it said had been planted between January and March 2015, but in actual fact had not. In addition, many of the trees that were planted in January 2014 will have to be moved for airport safeguarding and archaeology reasons.

AI will now therefore have to convince Natural England to grant it a European Protected Species Licence with little substantive mitigation planting in place to offset the loss of 2km of ancient hedgerows. AI thinks the bats and dormice using these hedgerows can take their chance mainly in the hedgerows and wooded areas that currently abound the site.

AI’s previous planting scheme was already substantially short of the 5,748m of new hedgerow that Defra suggests should be planted to offset the expected loss; AI said such shortfall "must be placed in the context of creating [14,547m2] of new woodland and tree belt habitat" 8.261-8.263:

Which begs the question, what context must that shortfall now be placed in - with so little of that 14,547m2 to be planted? Natural England recently told DCC:
We are also aware that tree and hedgerow planting proposed as mitigation for both landscape purposes and replacement habitat for the dormouse population may not yet be in place in the quantity identified throughout the documentation supporting this application...Your Authority will need to be satisfied that the mitigation plan proposed by the Applicant is deliverable in the quantity and to the quality required and within the appropriate timescales to provide the necessary replacement habitat.
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.
It’s much the same with bats. AI had originally said "Survey data demonstrated that bat activity was concentrated along hedgerows" 8.186.

But again, AI thinks it can do without any substantive compensatory planting, that the bats can rely on a reduced amount of hedgerows around the boundary instead, once the 2km of hedgerows within the site have been removed 4.20.

AI had originally conceded that:
Further, recent case law has clearly demonstrated that local planning authorities have a legal duty to consider the Habitats Regulations when making planning decisions; therefore the key considerations for the developer prior to gaining planning permission (and ultimately to enable grant of a licence) are to demonstrate that (i) sufficient habitat enhancement can be delivered in peripheral areas of the site; and (ii) that vegetation clearance to be phased such that dormouse can progressively retreat to enhanced marginal habitats. 4.1.5 [our emphasis]
It seems odd therefore that AI doesn’t think that sufficient habitat enhancement applies at Straitgate Farm - except on drawings. You will have heard of corporate 'green-washing'; well, AI's latest plans have been 'tree-washed': with broader existing tree-belts than Google Earth, you'd hardly know that '10,547m2 of trees' have been dropped from its plans.