The environmental impacts are literally a question of survival for the varied species of wildlife to be found at Dorcas Lane. Even the developer Force 9 Energy (F9E) and its energy company partner Électricité de France (EDF) has had to admit in its own Environmental Statement that wildlife will be killed and local habitats ruined by the construction, operation and decommissioning of these turbines, due to the enormity of civil engineering involved. Such wanton destruction of our precious ecology is simply unacceptable.
Fortunately this should be easily preventable. Protection for our environment and its many inhabitants is assured if AVDC acknowledges its own published policies and the several material planning considerations set out below. The fact that there is no satisfactory way of mitigating this destruction we believe makes refusal a mandatory obligation. SDLT has provided detailed evidence on all these issues in its full Rebuttal Document, which has just been submitted to AVDC. What follows are some key points.
The Existing Ecology
"Wind energy is not green: it destroys the landscapes; it chops up birds; it chops up bats."
Professor David Bellamy
F9E/EDF acknowledges the site is home to several highly protected species, but dismisses the area as of “low nature conservation interest. Dorcas Lane has a diverse rural ecology of flora and fauna, sustaining rare Bat species, Red Kites, Buzzards, Rabbits, Badgers, Foxes, Deer, Field Mice, Great Crested Newts and numerous other species.
In December 2011, after reviewing F9E's first Bat survey, a member of the AVDC Green Spaces team - an acknowledged expert on Bats - formally objected to this planning application. The team was itself surprised to discover the existence of four rare and highly protected Bat species at Dorcas Lane; one of them "extremely rare nationally" and another "of county significance". It concluded that all of these were highly vulnerable to being killed by these wind turbines and that no acceptable mitigation could be achieved. It also listed serious deficiencies in the Bat survey work completed by the applicant and their consultant. Consequently the team formally recommended refusal. Given the highly protected legal status of Bats, this alone is a material planning consideration sufficient to stop this development.
The applicant sought leave from AVDC to conduct a second Bat survey in an attempt to disprove these conclusions. This was allowed and it duly carried out a new Bat survey during 2012. This new survey has been assessed by a different member of the Green Spaces team and the full report is already available to Councillors. In summary it finds that:
- Some but not all aspects of the new survey work are acceptable
- There are significant deficiencies, possible errors and missing data
- Specified data has still not been provided and the North Bucks Bat Group has not been properly consulted
- There is no proof the survey and analysis has been completed by properly qualified personnel
- Set-back distances proposed for mitigation are the minimum permissible and only 25% of what best practice recommends
- The development does not propose a single enhancement for a variety of negative impacts despite these being eminently achievable
- There are no proposals for post-construction monitoring of impacts.
Consequently the final conclusion and recommendation is:
Notwithstanding this, by its own admission (Environmental Statement 8.8 Conclusion) this development will result in a net loss to biodiversity (bats and hedgerows). It has made insufficient attempt to adequately mitigate or compensate for these impacts and therefore should be refused.
So now two reports by the AVDC Green Spaces team have identified fundamental failures by the applicant. Its surveys are defective, there is no evidence to sustain its contention that the ecological impacts of the development are acceptable and no mitigation is possible. This again is a material planning consideration and AVDC must accordingly refuse this application.
F9E/EDF admits that Red Kites are present at Dorcas Lane every day throughout the year and that they will be killed. Like Bats, Red Kites are afforded the highest degree of legal protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981:
It is an offence to take, injure or kill a Red Kite, or to take, damage or destroy its nest, eggs or young. It is also an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds close to their nest during the breeding season. Violation of the law can attract fines up to £5,000 per offence and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.
Even so the applicant still tries to maintain that Dorcas Lane is of "..low nature conservation interest.." and that the environmental impacts of its development are acceptable. AVDC cannot consent to a development which will illegally kill Red Kites. This is yet another material planning consideration which cannot be effectively mitigated.
Pokers Pond Meadow
F9E/EDF has acknowledged the existence of this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) just 360 metres from the wind farm at its nearest point. But it has failed to consult on this SSSI and dismisses it as being of no significance.
This already threatened asset is described by Natural England as:
One of the last remaining fragments of ancient hay meadow to be found in the Vale of Aylesbury. The herb-rich dry grassland community which covers the majority of the field is of a type that is now rare in lowland Britain. It has only been maintained by continuous traditional management usually involving a late annual hay cut, followed by stock grazing, with no fertiliser or herbicide applications. Along the north-western edge of the meadow beside the stream there is a small area of marshy grassland that has evolved from the original site of the pond, in combination with impeded drainage.
Threats to its preservation identified by Natural England include drainage changes, modification of watercourses, changes to water levels and tables, and the infilling of ditches.
The Aylesbury Vale District Local Plan states:
In determining development proposals affecting sites of international, national nature conservation importance and designated Local Nature Reserves, the Council will ensure that their nature interest and ecological value is fully protected and, where possible, enhanced.
Consequently it must therefore refuse this application.
On this important subject SDLT has asked AVDC Councillors to evaluate the substantial environmental cost of what is proposed and to uphold the recommendation for refusal by its own Green Spaces team. The Council is obligated to safeguard designated species which have legally protected status and must recognise that damage done to species and habitats is irreversible. They need to hear the overwhelming opposition from local people and protect our environment.