The time and commitment my colleagues put into developing our case to protect nature at public inquires is considerable – but time is only part of it.  Stepping up for nature in the crucible of a public inquiry is often tough, as it is by its nature, adversarial.  Then there’s the wait for the outcome, lose and nature will be in greater jeopardy.

The wait has been on for Talbot Heath in Poole since the public inquiry last year – and today the result is in ... and it’s good news.

A major development proposal that risked damaging some of Europe’s rarest heathland habitat has been refused permission by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Dartford warbler - a species that calls the Dorset heathlands home. Picture RSPBImages

You can read about the case and our reaction to the news here.

Talbot Heath is a surviving fragment of a landscape that has suffered great historic loss.  It’s wildlife is fragile, ground-nesting birds and reptiles that are so vulnerable to disturbance, pet attack, fire and all the other risks that come along with development adjacent to the site.  These were the risks we were most concerned about; risks that we felt could not adequately been dealt with or ‘mitigated’ in the jargon of the inquiry.

And the inspector and Secretary of State agreed with our concerns

The decision comes at a time when the laws and regulations that exist to safeguard the best of nature are under close scrutiny by Government.  Unsustainable development must be properly scrutinised and it is good news that for Talbot Heath the thin green line of statutory protection is holding.

I’ll leave the last word to Tony Richardson, Regional Director for RSPB in the South West, “Dorset’s heathlands are much loved and used by local people.  But there are limits to how much pressure they can take and new developments of this kind, right next to one of our most special heathland areas, would have been a step too far.

“The Habitats Regulations, by which the UK Government implements the EU’s Nature Directives, provide valuable protection for Europe’s rarest and most threatened habitats and species. They apply a set of tests to all activities and developments to ensure that all those which do not adversely affect sites and species of European importance may continue.

 “In the case of Talbot Heath, the solution offered to mitigate the harm caused simply did not stand up to close scrutiny.

“All too often presented as a barrier to socio-economic activity, the Habitats Regulations actually provide a key test of the Government’s objective for sustainable growth.”

Well, nearly the last word!  While celebrating the news from Dorset – we can’t ignore that the goal of sustainable development is still under threat. Please step up and ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take economic growth and the environment off the collision course he steered towards in his Autumn Statement.

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