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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on June 19, 2002 at 20:42:31:
DAILY TELEGRAPH (London, UK) 17 June 02 Newts threaten plan for asylum seekers (Nick Britten)
Asylum seekers are likely to have to share one of the country's new accommodation centres with one of Europe's most protected wildlife species.
A large colony of great crested newts has been discovered on the site of the Ministry of Defence land near Bicester, Oxon, earmarked to house one of the centres.
The presence of the newts, which are protected under British and European law, could disrupt the Government's building plans for the site and will prevent it from disturbing the area where the newts are in residence.
Rebecca Llewellyn, a special conservation officer at English Nature, said: "It is vital that the newts have a breeding pond and a terrestrial area to live. There is a water tank on the site, where some may be housed, and it may be that the Government has to build a pond for them as part of the planning regulations.
"Any land up to 500 metres from a breeding pond cannot be touched. Surveys are being carried out at the moment to find out where the breeding ponds are and to identify where the newts are residing. When that is done we will be in a better position to advise the Government what to do."
The Home Office refused to say whether the newts were living in or near areas designated for construction work. If they were, the Government would need to apply for a licence from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to move them, or be forced to build around the colony.
DAILY TELEGRAPH (London, UK) 18 June 02 Newts before people
Few took much notice when it was pointed out that the Government's plans for an asylum centre near Bicester, Oxfordshire, would severely disrupt the habitat of the human beings who lived nearby.
Those who complained that the influx of 750 newcomers would bring down their house prices and generally make life miserable for everyone in the area were told in no uncertain terms to keep their selfish mouths shut.
The NatWest bank even went so far as to refuse to open an account for the Bicester Action Group, organised to campaign against the centre, accusing the protesters of racism. (It quickly changed its mind, under pressure from the press - but not before it had made known its contempt for a group of people whose aim was simply to preserve their rural tranquillity.)
But salvation is now at hand for the Bicester Action Group. This is not because the Government has suddenly accepted that its proposed asylum centre would harm the local people's quality of life. It is because a large colony of great crested newts has been discovered on the MoD land where the asylum centre was to have been built.
Unlike people, these rare creatures enjoy the full protection of British and European law. They cannot be disturbed without special licences, which will be granted only if the Government can prove that there is no satisfactory alternative to building its asylum centre over the newts' breeding ground.
We take no sides in this matter. We simply observe how very often it is that supposedly rare species seem to be discovered on the sites of proposed road schemes and other unpopular developments.
We have this advice for protesters everywhere: don't waste time trying to gain sympathy for your human woes. If you want to scupper a development scheme, just start hunting for newts.
DAILY TELEGRAPH (London, UK) 19 June 02 Letter: Newts are not doing well in England
Sir - It would be nice if your statement "if you want to scupper a development scheme, just start hunting for newts" (Comment, June 18) was true. It is not. It could be true in America, but here "mitigation" results in the great crested newts losing out - to the extent of 90 per cent or more of their habitat or even 100 per cent as a result of forced translocation. All that happens is that the development is delayed while this is worked out. Hence great crested newts are not doing well in England.
From: Dr HR Bustard, President, British Herpetological Society, Alyth, Perthshire
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