I object, and so do the Dormice

Fineshade EN/14/01704/FUL

DSCF2971_2I object to the planning proposal to build 70 holidays cabins at Fineshade on the grounds that it would harm the conservation status of a European Protected Species (Dormouse). Also, that the proposed development would not pass either of the first two of the ‘three tests’ needed before such a damaging development could be approved. The information provided to the planning authority by the developer is clearly woefully inadequate.



Dormouse picThe Dormouse is a European Protected Species (EPS).  As such, it receives special protection which in the UK is transposed in to law by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended).  Fineshade Wood has, according to the applicant’s ecologists a history of this species. In the completely inadequate single site visit on the 29/08/2014 they recorded a single nut, albeit outside the red-line boundary (development area), but contiguous with it; i.e. no ecological barrier.  Quite rightly, they concluded that dormice are present within Fineshade Wood and likely to be within the proposed development footprint.

I have checked the appropriate survey guidelines (attached) which are readily available online and the recommended survey methods have not been followed. The single visit in August does not remotely constitute sufficient survey although it confirmed the presence of Dormice, it doesn’t give any meaningful indication of distribution or population.  This is relevant to the application as the local planning authority needs to assess the application against the ‘three tests’.

Any plan or project which potentially affects the favourable conservation status (FCS) of any EPS, has to take into account obligations set out in the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora Directive 1992 (92/43/EEC) see The Habitats Directive – Environment – European Commission for more information on this Directive (see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69622/pb13840-habitats-iropi-guide-20121211.pdf for a guidance document).

Any plan or project that would likely have a significant effect on the FCS of an EPS is required to pass the ‘three tests’ set out in Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive.   The three tests are sequential and all three have to be met. The first two have to be met, before you consider the third.

The three tests are:

1) there must be no feasible alternative solutions to the plan or project which are less damaging to the affected European site(s); THIS TEST IS NOT MET
2) there must be imperative reasons of overriding public interest for the plan or project to proceed; THIS TEST IS NOT MET
3) all necessary compensatory measures must be secured to ensure that the overall coherence of the network of European sites is protected THIS TEST IS NOT RELEVANT
Given that the surveys undertaken failed to comply with the published guidelines and nor did they justify deviating away from them, in my view, the LPA cannot discharge their obligations under the 2010 Regulations.  How can they determine if there are no feasible alternative solutions (within the context of the woodland block) if they don’t know where the dormice are?  Do they use the woodland uniformly, or do they avoid certain areas?  If they avoid certain areas, would these not be alternative solutions?  Without the survey evidence (or at least a reasonable attempt to answer the question), they are not in a position to proceed beyond the first test – and remember, all three must be met.  How can the third test be met when they don’t know where and how many and what sub-habitat within the wood the dormice use?  Is the habitat management, which is proposed as a condition of planning permission in the officer’s report, appropriate/ sufficient?  The LPA are not in a position to answer this; and they need to be.  The law requires this (see the Woolley case (see a useful document here: http://www.bsg-ecology.com/News/Images/Briefing%20Note_Aug09.pdf – note that the Regulations have been updated but the case-law applies).

On this basis, in my view, the LPA cannot determine the application.

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12 Replies to “I object, and so do the Dormice”

  1. Hi Mark,
    another proposed development that will be harmful to wildlife. Do you think it is possible to deal with this national problem without a centralised approach to defence of areas of conservation importance. I don't mean (just) through the political party system and new policy but through an independent network that connects e.g. ecological consultants, planning experts, lawyers, media and publicity experts to local groups/community members that can give them advice/co-ordination on how to defend things at the local/ site specific level. Local bird groups etc could all sign up as members for updates and information. So in essence a kind of HQ from where local groups can be co-ordinated/ go to for assistance. That way when it comes to getting people together for e.g. demonstration, petition signing or even occupation (!) there could be an assembled pool of people to draw support from and give support too.

    Personally I feel that would build confidence and provide a necessary structure . It would certainly have been useful for the recent campaign I have been involved in. Seems like there are huge numbers of people who support conservation but e.g. in our local case of defending our local patch (a SINC and MOL- equivalent of green belt in London) only a few people were involved despite our best efforts. Everyone seems to switch off at local issues and that leaves local groups fighting more or less in isolation and that way they don't stand so much of a chance against developers. Would be good if all the local groups got together and supported each other? Our local patch has got policy and protection status all over it- still didn't help. It needs more than policy. Its need like a conservation army!? That's what I reckon anyway.

    1. Totally agree with you, Peter. I'm asking the same question. We need to work on improving our information gathering, communication and knowledge-sharing capacity on a national and regional basis. Modern internet tools are perfect for this. I'm no software engineer, but even I as a user looking at the starting success of social networking sites like Streetlife.com can see that there is huge potential available for combining local grassroots activism with Usenet type software linking the grassroots with expertise at all spatial scales.

      I experimented with Streetlife in my local area and found that simply posting a few photos of litter spoiling a local nature reserve area and asking why don't we do something about it, resulted in a great response and the coming together of dozens of people to pitch in and take action. In our same local area there are all sorts of positive initiatives bubbling up now, all facilitated by the Streetlife networking tools, which everyone can access.

      Maybe somebody's already working on this, or maybe again, a few people could get together and share some ideas?

      1. Hi Serena,
        I just looked up Streetlife and will give it a go. We've got a good local community already (I noticed some of my neighbours already members) so will be good for hopefully building more support. Thanks very much!

    2. "ecological consultants"

      I'd like to see a report by ecological consultants employed by developers that concludes that the development should not go ahead. I would also like to see some cockerels' eggs and some rocking-horse dung.

      1. Perhaps a register created which lists which "ecological consultants" were involved with which developments then the public can see which of the "professionsls" are professional at what ....

        It might also be useful to have a list of "ecological consultants" who have been true to conservation & represented nature conservation / environment interest (irrespective of outcome).

        Likewise "planning consultants" and lawyers?

  2. Rather than not determining the application as you say Mark, surely the LPA can refuse the application?

  3. Can the developer get a licence to move the Dormouse? I don't know about those beasties! I just don't understand how the Forestry Commission can be involved in a project that could harm an EPS? Has anyone asked them?

  4. Apparently you can get a licence...but by the looks of the conditions, this would have to be the only wood in England where this development could take place.....
    I think not.

    1. & would the licence application have to be made through our erstwhile guarfians of nature conservation, Natural England? Oh dear, their track record ain't so good despite some good staff hanging on to their jobs (just).

  5. Coppicing is very important for dormice as well as many other species such as woodland butterflies. Excessive numbers of deer can however cause problems because the deer kill the freshly coppiced stools. Too few deer can also be a bad thing. Deer can slow down the rate of regrowth - this can provide an important window for woodland butterflies.

    This means that fencing deer out completely from coppiced areas is not necessarily the best thing to do. You then tend to get fast regrowth and a thicket.

    One solution is to shoot the deer however because deer roam over a large area this is not necessarily as effective as one might think. One might have say ten acres of coppice. Red deer roam over hundreds of square miles, so to reduce deer numbers in that ten acre coppice you would have to shoot deer over a far far wider area. Moreover unless you actually own that area around the coppice or have permission to shoot the deer on it you might not legally be able to do that even if you wanted to.

    I have an alternative solution. Rather than killing deer or using fencing simply regularly take dogs on foot through the wood. Don't use dogs that might harm the deer. In my experience collie dogs are ideal. I've taken collie dogs on foot around my farm for nearly seventeen years and we've never harmed any deer. They are fine for cattle and sheep too.

    There is unfortunately one problem with my activity. Because the dogs flush out the deer they then have to be shot. I've checked with both the |Government and the police and they assure me this is the case. It's due to an extremely badly thought out law - the Hunting Act 2004.

    To make matters even worse under a ruling in 2007 when a herd of deer is flushed they must ALL be gunned down as they flee the dogs. To my mind this runs a serious risk of resulting in cruelty and to kill deer in this manner would ruin my enjoyment of them, my dogs and my woods. Moreover my harmless flushing has been an activity I can carry out with young children. They like seeing deer and their simple joy and seeing a group of deer springing out of the cover and running off would be ruined by watching them then die in a hail of gunfire from a line of legally required guns.

    The law should promote people's right to engage in harmless non lethal non cruel wildlife management.

    It is completely absurd and wrong to create a situation where NOT killing deer is a wildlife crime.

    Collie dogs sensibly used as part of an active regime of woodland management can promote healthy woodland habitat for dormice and other wildlife.


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