Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Clearing scrub and bramble on the QGR route on 16 March 2015 (photo: CHD).

Clearing scrub and bramble on the QGR route on 16 March 2015 (photo: CHD).

Dormice prompt criticism of QGR work

Combe Haven Defenders (CHD) claim that, after planning permission for the Queensway Gateway road was granted in early 2015, development company Sea Change Sussex cleared dormouse habitats before the requisite licence had been issued. Sea Change denies the charge. Nick Terdre reports.

A Freedom of Information request showed that a licence was issued by Natural England on 20 March 2015 permitting clearance of dormouse habitats on the Queensway Gateway road route between 20 and 31 March. But CHD says it has photographic and video evidence showing that trees containing dormouse tubes were felled on 11 March, while bramble scrub used by dormice was being cleared with mechanical strimmers on 16 March.

Andrea Needham, who made the FoI request on behalf of CHD, said, “It is clear that Sea Change acted illegally in clearing dormouse habitat without a licence. Sea Change is currently applying for planning permission for its next road, the North Bexhill Access Road, and we are very concerned that if planning permission is granted, they will again ignore the laws on wildlife in order to move forward with the road as fast as possible.

“We have informed the police wildlife crime unit of the incident and assume they will take action against Sea Change Sussex for this serious breach of wildlife laws.”

Dormouse tubes from felled trees (photo: CHD).

Dormouse tubes from felled trees (photo: CHD).

Sea Change rebuts the allegation. “This is yet more misinformation from the protestors, designed to confuse and mislead the community,” a spokesman told HOT. “As they must know, as they claim to have read the reports, specialist ecological studies found there were parts of the Queensway Gateway site which showed evidence of dormice and parts which showed none.

”We cleared the section identified as dormice habitat between 23 and 27 March 2015, after receiving the appropriate licence from Natural England and in full accordance with this licence. Earlier in March, we’d cleared other parts of the site which were verified to be free of dormice and therefore needed no licence. But even here we did this in accordance with best environmental practice and under expert supervision.”

However, Ms Needham expressed scepticism over Sea Change’s explanation. The video posted on the CHD website showing contractors cutting scrub in an area of woodland and scrub covered by the licence was filmed on 16 March, she told HOT.

“It’s not about delaying construction of the QGR, it’s about making sure that Sea Change does things properly,” she added. The same went for the North Bexhill Access Road – if this is approved for construction, Sea Change will be clearing a vast area of countryside, felling hundreds of trees and pulling out nearly two kilometres of hedgerows.

“It is the company’s policy always to operate with appropriate licences and permissions – and they’re advised by various experts including ecologists to ensure they do so,” Sea Change told HOT.

In July, HOT reported that Sea Change had resumed tree-felling on the QGR route under licences granted by East Sussex County Council and Natural England, although at that time it had no planning permission for the construction of the road. This was granted anew after the hearing of a revised application in December.

CHD press release

Sea Change Sussex: the Queensway Gateway road

Posted 06:32 Monday, Jan 25, 2016 In: Campaigns

1 Comment

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  1. Lucy Locket

    It does seem that despite all the legislation regarding the protection of wildlife these laws can be bypassed ‘just like that’ without any fear of prosecution. Natural England needs to take more than an advisory role in the protection of wildlife because so frequently their ‘Standing Advice’ in these matters is so easily by-passed.

    Not an ideal situation is it? Ideal for developers maybe but not for those creatures these laws are supposed to protect. And for Sea Change to state that any efforts to raise these issues is nothing more than a delaying tactic is an unpleasant remark which fails to address the concerns of everyone who is against the destruction of yet more of our wildife and countryside.

    Comment by Lucy Locket — Thursday, Jan 28, 2016 @ 09:18

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