It was clear from the wide range of evidence and views submitted in the course of the Review that in the large majority of cases the implementation of the Directives is working well, allowing both development of key infrastructure and ensuring that a high level of environmental protection is maintained.
So not gold plated after all?
A full copy of DEFRA's review can be downloaded here.
I’ve spoken to one of the local staff members who has been involved and who, now he has visited the site, frankly admits that this was a disastrous mistake, pure and simple, and that he’s absolutely mortified.Although the site in question isn’t an SSSI, it is in an HLS agreement that we’re responsible for overseeing.The HLS agreement is with a private individual, albeit on FC land, and is primarily for heathland restoration.As this particular area was only scrubbed up with 6-10 year old birch, and obviously would have still provided good habitat for reptiles, the Natural England brief for the works was not as detailed as it should have been.As is plain to see from the photos heavy machinery was used, which was the completely wrong method for an area like this (clearly heavy machinery should only be used where there is no reptile habitat whatsoever remaining), and at the worst possible time of year to boot.As soon as Natural England staff became aware of what was happening the work was stopped and less damaging methods were advised
A detailed and very encouraging response from Paul Edgar regarding the incident at Allerthorpe. Paul is Natural England's new Amphibian and Reptile Species Specialist and I believe he deserves a great deal of kudos for being so candid. I really hope that we are at the beginning of a new era, when the statutory conservation organisations and major land owning charities such as The National Trust, County Widlife Trusts, RSPB et. al. take significantly more interest in the conservation of reptiles and amphibians on land that they manage.
Tadpoles this spring will be facing more than the usual predatory threats of fish, birds and children with jam jars. Amid the worst drought in 30 years "a wildlife tragedy" is looming that could inflict a heavy toll on some of England's best-loved species ...
... Perkins [Wildlife Trusts] blamed the loss of life on overuse of water. "We urgently need to change the way we use water at home and across businesses. Saving water now could save wildlife from an absolute disaster."
I'm not really convinced that encouraging businesses and householders to use less water is going to result in more water in ponds this year, what we need is rain. It should also be remembered that whilst a dry pond in 2012 may prevent amphibians from breeding, it will also remove important aquatic predators such as fish. Amphibian breeding success in such ponds could therefore be much higher than normal in 2013.
What would be problematic is a prolonged period of successive dry winters and springs. Whilst alarm bells may be ringing I don't think we are at the tradgedy stage just yet.
[Update 3/5/2012] - Well we certainly have had some rain recently! Most of the Kent ponds that I survey are now full of water and great crested newts appear to be laying plenty of eggs.
Professor Trevor Beebee, of the University of Sussex, said: “The species most likely to suffer are those using shallow, temporary ponds, notably common frogs and, more significantly, the rare and endangered natterjack toad."
Has anyone else been to Allerthorpe near York recently ? It's a local lowland heathland and pine forest that has a wealth of reptile and amphibians not to mention birdlife and other wildlife. I've just been today and can't believe the work that they are carrying out there.
I acknowledge that there is a problem with birch trees growing through the heathland causing shade and generally taking over the habitat but the work that is been done to combat this beggars belief. Heavy machinery, diggers etc has been brought in and vast areas have been cleared down to soil level leaving bare earth compacted down with tyre marks !
A few very small islands have been left within these bare areas but they are very few. Notices have been posted stating that the work does look drastic but heather will grow back and it has been done with the full backing of Natural England.
How can they justify this destruction of habitat ?
Wildlife experts say moving slow worms and lizards from Gloucester to Cheltenham could be vital for the survival of the creatures. Ecology Solutions is spearheading an effort to transport the animals from the Railway Triangle development to Leckhampton Hill. The firm is working on the migration with Natural England, Cheltenham Borough Council and Friends of Leckhampton Hill and Charlton Kings Common. Its senior ecologist Karl Goodbun said: "There's a need to protect them."
So on one hand NE advocate the translocation of reptiles from proposed development sites such as this. Yet at nature reserves such as Allerthorpe Common NE undertake wholesale habitat disturbance without any mitigation works at all. It doesn't make any sense.
“Thanks to this thoughtless, inconsiderate and uneducated choice of clearance it has wiped out not just these populations of reptile but also an important co-existing ecosystem for all the other species and, due to this mismanagement, will obviously take many, many years before anything thrives there again.”
These habitat restoration works at a Site of Special Scientific Interest clearly do not follow best practice for managing sites that are known to support important reptile populations. As a professional ecological consultant that advises Natural England and industry on the legality of works affecting reptile habitat, I must admit to being shocked and highly disappointed by what has occurred here. The fact that NE only revised their plans in response to comments made by the public strikes me as being highly unprofessional. The works may have resulted in individual animals being killed and that would be unlawful. Since the impact of large scale habitat works such as these are of real concern to those of us who undertake reptile conservation, I believe that it is in the public interest to inform the police to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to consider a prosecution.
Interesting that local planning authorities are starting to enforce full disclosure of proposed mitigation works within applications for planning consent. It is no longer sufficient to simply state that mitigation works will be undertaken.
As principal ecologist for Calumma Ecological Services, I am able to put my interest in reptiles and amphibians to good effect. Like most folks that work with wildlife, my activities extend beyond just 'the job' and I am also involved with several local conservation groups. Being the county recorder for reptiles and amphibians in Kent certainly helps me to fill in those spare moments when I'm not busy with the kids!
Calumma Ecological Services is a Kent based ecological consultancy that specialises in protected species surveys and habitat assessments.
Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group
For more information about Kent's reptiles and amphibians visit the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group's website.
Submit a Record Have you seen a frog in your garden pond? Better yet an adder while out walking?! If you would like to let KRAG know about an amphibian or reptile observation, please complete the online recording card.
Recording Diary KRAG organises a full programme of events throughout the year. For more details about forthcoming attractions, visit the KRAG web site.
Old Blog Posts Still Available Archived posts in the old blog are still available - and will be for ever if I don't work out how to import them into this new site!
Amphibian and Reptile Group of South Lancashire
For more information about the reptiles and amphibians found in Lancashire, visit the ARGSL website.