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Dartford council admits clearing woodlands without conducting wildlife survey

PUBLISHED: 16:24 02 June 2011

Birchwood residents

Birchwood residents

Archant

»Undergrowth left untouched for half a century has been cleared by a council to make way for potential housing, without conducting a wildlife survey.

Neighbours living near about half a hectare of land are outraged that Dartford Borough Council has bulldozed shrubs, bushes and grasses to survey woodlands it owns in Birchwood Road, south of Wilmington.

Linda Travella, whose family has owned the adjacent farm for more than 50 years, said: “There are all sorts of breeds of birds, badger sets, you see pheasants. It has been a wildlife haven and in the space of a couple of weeks it has been destroyed.”

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) member and neighbour John Carter, 74, agreed. “The council may say they are only making investigations but the damage is done. Even if nothing is done it will take years for the undergrowth to grow back,” he added.

Survey

Julian Nash, RSPB manager at Cliffe Marshes, said the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 required the council to conduct a survey to prevent illegal damaging of bird nesting sites.

A spokesman for the council admitted no wildlife survey was conducted prior to the work, which was to allow potential development.

“The soil investigation team removed some shrubs, bushes and cleared dense vegetation to enable access. Only one small tree was removed. A tree survey of the site had been undertaken prior to the investigation work to identify the zones available for potential development and safeguard the long-term retention of the boundary trees,” added the spokesman. “The area was not green belt land and there were no tree preservation orders on the land.”

However, Ray Taylor, 47, who lives opposite the land, said: “My ash tree has a preservation order yet theirs doesn’t? It seems like it is one law for them and one for us.”

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