Continuing our updates on the A21 public inquiry, Richard tells us about his day cross-examining witnesses:
“Day 4 dealt with the evidence presented by the Highways Agency on ecology and nature conservation, and on planning. My aim in cross-examining the witnesses was to establish the full extent of ancient woodland that will be lost, confirm the important differences between ‘mitigation’ and ‘compensation’ for that loss (and the subsequent evaluation of this when looking at the benefits of the scheme), and the value that is attached to ancient woodland.
I remain concerned that the compensation measures have crept into the balance of need for the scheme (contrary to Natural England advice), and was disappointed to learn that the Highways Agency doesn’t consider that all ancient woodland is automatically of national significance. I feel strongly about this, given that ancient woodland and its importance is mentioned several times in the National Planning Policy Framework, other government national policy documents, and by government representatives speaking in parliament.
Kent Wildlife Trust and RSPB have maintained their objections in principle to the loss of ancient woodland, while continuing to discuss the mitigation and compensation measures. This mirrors our approach, as recommended by Natural England in its standing advice on ancient woodland in the south-east. It is therefore a mystery, and a disappointment to me, why Natural England didn’t follow its own advice and object to the loss of ancient woodland in principle while continuing the valuable dialogue on species mitigation.
I’ll be at the Inquiry again next Thursday to listen to supporters and objectors to the road widening, and on Friday 24th to present my own evidence on behalf of the Trust. Thanks again for the messages of support, and the emails sent to the Highways Agency.”
Richard Barnes, Senior Conservation Adviser
Follow the Inquiry’s progress throughout the next few days.