Inquiry hears of need to protect newts

DEVELOPERS of the proposed SnOasis leisure village at Great Blakenham have a duty to find appropriate alternative homes for rare wildlife they would disturb.

DEVELOPERS of the proposed SnOasis leisure village at Great Blakenham have a duty to find appropriate alternative homes for rare wildlife they would disturb.

It is not up to wildlife bodies to suggest alternative sites to them, an expert from Natural England told the public inquiry into the proposed holiday village.

Dr Alison Collins told the inquiry that Natural England - the statutory body responsible for safeguarding the nation's ecology - was concerned about proposals to move rare species like great crested newts from the former chalk quarries at Great Blakenham.

Suitable new sites had not been identified and if the animals were subjected to more than one move it could have a devastating effect on the colony.

The developers had suggested creating new wildlife habitats out of agricultural land, but Dr Collins said such land would be too rich and would require the removal of topsoil and nutrients, otherwise it could be overrun with weeds.

And she told the inquiry that such a move might not be allowed by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which guards prime agricultural land.

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Under cross examination from Rupert Warren, counsel for the applicants, Dr Collins accepted that some species had been successfully moved from the neighbouring Viridor site but she said there was no guarantee this would happen at the SnOasis site.

Earlier she had explained the problems associated with moving species. She said: “Great crested newts habitats are often complex and should be not be viewed as simple systems which are easily moved or recreated without difficulty.

“The construction of the mosaic of new ponds and new habitats on a bare site to replace the quarry habitats will take a considerable amount of time.”

Today the inquiry was due to move into the council chamber at the town hall for the rest of the week.

Next week there will be site visits and then it is to be adjourned until early May when late submissions will be heard.

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