FoE will fight for grassland

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SOUTH Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth says that it’s disappointed that Aylesbury Vale District Council are not defending expansion plans in Linslade on wildlife and habitat grounds. It now plans to fight plans by Paul Newman Homes to build 900 houses by submitting its own habitat reports to government inspectors.

As sole protectors of wildlife in the public inquiry on the proposed western Linslade housing development by Paul Newman Homes, Friends of the Earth say the area not only contains fenland which is very rare in this area, along with ancient hedgerows, but most importantly species-rich grassland of which FoE claim 97% has been lost since 1970. AVDC has accepted a programme of compensation from the developers but FoE believe that it is impossible to compensate for this type of habitat.

FoE representative Victoria Harvey told the LBO that the new report on the state of the UK’s wildlife by Professor Lawton stresses that local wildlife sites such as the fen and grassland with flowers need far more protection and the government’s new white paper on biodiversity stresses that people really need to do much more to protect biodiversity.

Ms Harvey said: “In 2009, South beds Friends of the earth raised nearly £3000 from local residents and this has been spent on lawyers letters to Government offices of the south east to make sure that the area was not allocated SE plan, a report from an international expert on bats which are protected under European law which showed that Paul Newman had not done adequate surveys, and two reports from Ecologist Phil Irving on the ecology of the area and its importance as part of a wider network. Under European law this development should not go ahead.

“We also spent some time with the government inspector explaining that this habitat could not be replaced.”

Ms Harvey said that Mr Irving’s statement pointed out areas of species rich grassland that had been left out of the developers surveys and said that to recreate this grassland is very difficult as there is a real mixture of acid soil and chalk in the valley farm fen and the topography of the site would need to be recreated to get the same effect.

Government inspector Stuart Nixon was also told about the Friends of Linslade wood and how the group protects the wildlife.

Ms Harvey said: “When my mother was a child there were fields of cowslips and she would pick them for wine. When I was a child, I would go into the woods to pick primroses, but now if you take a child to pick wildflowers today you feel a criminal. We have lost so much of our natural heritage since the 1970s, so it is crucial that we protect and save our remaining wildflower meadows for our children and grandchildren.

“The government policy on protecting wildlife is getting stronger and so we feel that this is a really important part of the fight against Paul Newman homes. We had expected AVDC to do most of the work, so we are having to present expert evidence to the inspector at very short notice and we are asking for donations to cover this. Please send any donations to Ken Barry 97 Bideford Green, Linslade, Leighton Buzzard LU7 2TJ.”