Questions raised over stone curlew buffer zone
A piece of legislation has put the spotlight on a 3,000-acre site of special scientific interest (SSSI), between Bury St Edmunds and Swaffham, home to colonies of stone curlew.
Scientific evidence suggests the birds are significantly affected by their proximity to buildings and roads, resulting in a 1,500m buffer zone established around the site.
But the constant need for growth – more homes and enterprise – has raised questions about how a piece of legislation, the European Habitats Directive, which aims to protect habitats and species of European interest, is interpreted.
Robert Childerhouse of Childerhouse Farms, near Weeting, said: 'The buffer zone engulfs the entire village of Weeting which means it is now sterilised in so far as any future growth or re-development is concerned.
'For the 200 people on the council's housing list in Weeting this is not good news as it means their housing need is not going to be addressed, leaving Thetford as the only material alternative housing location to move to.'
You may also want to watch:
The director of Thetford's Shadwell Estate, Chris Kennard, said planning was still restricted despite numbers of stone curlew increasing.
'We treasure our role as custodians of a bio-diverse countryside. But there is a need for a level playing field so good practice by landowners and farmers is acknowledged and rewarded,' he said.
- 1 Famous Norwich firm locked in legal battle with Red Bull
- 2 'I couldn't believe my eyes' - snorkeller finds 125-year-old shipwreck
- 3 Huge village home with indoor swimming pool for sale for £1.2m
- 4 End of an era as cafe owner hangs up apron after 26 years
- 5 Huge Christmas market returning to Norfolk Showground for 2021
- 6 Location revealed for new major music festival with '90s flavour'
- 7 People told to shut doors and windows after suspected gas leak
- 8 Britain's poshest train returning to Norwich for Christmas lunch
- 9 Motorcyclist dies in crash on A11
- 10 Motorists have fines and points cancelled over £2m speed cameras blunder
'It is an irony that through the creation of the 1,500m buffer, the data the RSPB has collected has been used to produce a seemingly unchangeable report for Natural England that prohibits development – in one case a single stud-worker's cottage.'
The main aim of the directive is to promote biodiversity by requiring countries to maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species. Countries are required to take account of economic, social and cultural requirements as well as regional and local characteristics.
The Defra minister for natural environment and fisheries, Richard Benyon, has just met South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss and local businesses and farms to seek a solution to development difficulties while maintaining the integrity of the directive.
Officials from Natural England believe an idea mooted at the meeting that the site be more geographically specific would be at odds with the scientific evidence.
Senior adviser for land use function at Natural England, Chris Gibson, said: 'On our current understanding, to deliver local changes to the buffer zone would be difficult because it needs to be supported by evidence.
'If changes were made and not supported there is a risk it could be challenged and the government could find itself in front of the European court. The current situation is that we have a strong evidence base that stone curlew breeding is affected by the proximity of buildings and roads.'