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OTTERY: MP urged to respond to ancient woodland threat

Friday, 17 January 2014

East Devon MP Hugo Swire has been urged to challenge the government’s proposal to allow development to take place on ancient woodland – a decision which could put a historic site near Ottery St Mary at risk.
Devon County and East Devon District Councillor Claire Wright wrote to Hugo Swire last week and is concerned that Cadhay Bog, off Barrack Road, could be under threat as a result of the proposal, announced by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
It is proposed that the loss of ancient woodland like Cadhay Bog could be evened out with extra planting elsewhere – a policy known as biodiversity offsetting.
The bog, owned by the Cadhay estate, comprises several acres of woodland that could date back as far as the Ice Age. Such sites, known as ‘wildwood’, are considered to be particularly rare in the UK.
In a letter to Hugo Swire, Councillor Wright wrote: “This is a truly appalling proposal. Ancient woodland is just that – a tiny proportion of woodland in the UK – and it is irreplaceable. Quite simply, it cannot be recreated. It provides a home to thousands of insects and birds, many of which are also in serious decline due to development, climate change and alterations to farming methods.”
The proposed quarry at Straitgate Farm already threatens the Cadhay site and this latest announcement could put one of the few sites of its kind in East Devon at even greater risk.
Councillor Wright added: “An underground watercourse feeds Cadhay Bog and disturbance of this aquifer caused by quarrying would be very likely to cut off, or considerably reduce the vital water feeding the rich and irreplaceable habitat.
“Natural England and the Environment Agency have submitted strong objections to the proposals for this reason, but if Mr Paterson gets his way, their objections could quite easily be overruled and one of the last remaining examples of wildwood could be lost forever.”
Austin Brady, Head of Conservation at The Woodland Trust, has also called for action over the issue.
He said: “We would like to make it absolutely clear - biodiversity offsetting does not work for ancient woods like Cadhay Bog. Until there is firm, protective legislation for ancient woodland our battle to protect it will continue.”

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