Campaigners call for lorry park approval to be rescinded after claims of newt habitation
- Credit: Archant
The robustness of the planning process in north Norfolk and the consultation work of Natural England have been criticised after the apparent discovery of a protected species close to where plans for a lorry park have been approved.
People in Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham, who have had a long-running campaign opposing a maltings expansion scheme claim to have found great crested newt habitation 165m from the planned developments which include a lorry park, two silos and associated facilities.
This evidence was not recorded during the planning process and North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) granted The Crisp Maltings Group planning permission for the developments at its Great Ryburgh site.
The EDP has previously reported how members of the Ryburgh Village Amenity Group (RVAG) has been given permission by the high court to seek a judicial review against NNDC and Natural England.
The judicial review is due to take place between April 23 and April 26.
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But, following their recently-discovered evidence of the great crested newt habitation, they want NNDC to rescind the planning consent and initiate a full Environmental Impact Assessment of the site.
RVAG spokesman David Dalton says in a letter to NNDC and Natural England: 'Taking this decisive action now is likely to save significant further expenditure of taxpayers' money in attempting to defend the indefensible at the forthcoming judicial review.'
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His letter points to Natural England's own guidelines which state if there is any possibility of great crested newt habitation within 500m of a potential development, a proper survey should be carried out.
The letter states: 'There are several potential breeding ponds and ditches well within 500m but no attempt was made to survey them.
'This discovery adds weight to the argument that Natural England was simply not diligent enough when accepting at face value the evidence provided by the planning applicant.
'Natural England should have proposed an independent Environmental Impact Assessment, if it wasn't prepared to conduct further investigations of its own.'
Natural England has acknowledged that it did not send a representative to visit the site before giving its advice in the consultation process but believe that correct procedure was followed.
A Natural England spokesman said: 'Natural England's statutory role in planning cases is to advise the local planning authority on potential impacts on protected sites and species. This advice is based on research carried out by independent ecological consultants on behalf of the developer. It is aimed at ensuring that UK and European conservation laws are observed during the planning process.
'In this case Natural England, having studied the independent research in 2010 which confirmed that the site contained no habitat to support great crested newts and that their presence was therefore unlikely, concluded that the proposed development would have no adverse impact on any protected species.
'If it subsequently becomes apparent that great crested newts are on site then it is the responsibility of the developer to take steps to mitigate disturbance to the newts or apply for a licence from Natural England to move the newts carefully for their long-term protection.
'Natural England has since conducted a review of its advice in this case and is confident that all proper procedures were followed by its staff.'
An NNDC spokesperson said: 'The application is subject to a judicial review. The council is currently considering a letter from the RVAG regarding the possible evidence of a great crested newt being discovered near the proposed lorry site.'