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Letters Dec 17

 

Dear Sir,

After WW2 I understand that as a country we lost 50% of our hedgerows – a situation attributed to farmers grubbing them out. We have largely ended this situation and since 1997 parliament has passed laws protecting hedgerows, especially if they are classed as ancient hedgerows. Ancient hedgerows are recognisable by wide criteria such as the number of woody species they contain, the number of woodland indicator plant species that are found in the under-storey and their general curved linear appearance. They are often found alongside ancient footpaths or on the old drovers’ routes.

These hedgerows are protected by law because of their intrinsic value to wildlife, their importance in our cultural history and for their aesthetic appearance in our environment. All this is obviously very good, as everyone must realise by now, when you get the words Crich and environment in the same sentence you should fear the worst. Here in Crich, ancient hedgerows, while in theory protected by law, have the misfortune of being in an area earmarked for “improvement” by Amber Valley Borough Council. As many people will know, they are currently in the process of overseeing a large increase in their council tax revenues by way of overseeing a large decrease in green fields around Crich.

Thus, in order to facilitate the council’s vision for our village an ecological report was carried out by a team of ecologists working for Gladman Developments – who wished to transform Roes Lane from an edge-of-village backwater into an executive nirvana. This report lay bare the techniques which those who are not interested in ancient hedgerows or in wildlife around Crich, or in listening to local communities, use to circumvent the laws of this land which they wish did not exist. The report simply said the hedgerows were not ancient and not protected. Now this statement may have been a mistruth, or even a honest mistake, but it was sufficiently plausible for the ABVC planning committee to not unduly question the validity of the application.

When it was pointed out to the AVBC planning department that the hedgerows on the site met the criteria for ancient hedgerows as set out in the Hedgerows Act 1997 and therefore were given protection by law, an AVBC employee rang to say “Well we can’t be expected to know everything about ecology”, and “anyway the decision can’t be reversed”. This latter statement may well be correct, but it was interesting to hear that the AVBC planning committee by their own admission suffer from a competency deficit when dealing in matters ecological. This provided little comfort for those of us who long suspected that the council does not know what it is doing to be proved correct.

The upshot of the whole sorry episode has been that many people who previously had faith in authority to do the right thing have been sorely disabused of this notion. We have also learnt that if a developer wishes to build houses in the countryside and pays for an ecological report it will be more likely to be entered into the Booker Prize fiction awards than receive an accolade for environmental protection.

(Name and address supplied)