Yesterday (8 March 2021) was not only a sad day in the fight to save Prince’s Parade, it was also a sad day for wildlife and for those that believe nature must be protected in law.
Local residents and campaign supporters including 5 councillors came together to investigate the tree felling along the canal path. Around 50 people became shut in by steel fencing after the police were called due to a report of a covid regulation breach. The area between the bridges is big enough to comfortably hold that many people with ample social distance and most likely regularly has done since covid arrived on our shores.
The people were not there to protest, they were there because they knew significant harm was planned to the trees and birdlife and because no accurate information had been provided by the council. As a group, these people care about their local environment, something that you would expect a council to cherish and foster by creating opportunities for engagement so that issues could be sensibly resolved.
Not so with F&HDC as a whole. For too long the ruling cabinet has made unpopular and unwise decisions against the will of the population at large, excusing it’s actions as a result of central government policies/housing targets and refusing steadfastly to uphold objections to it’s plans. Despite numerous emails over the preceding days and local councillors battling to obtain further knowledge of the site clearance, no response from the council was forthcoming.
Many people wanted to know why the council had altered their own plans, which state that it was important to complete these works by the end of February because of the risk to nesting birds and their letter confirms their knowledge of the Wildlife Act in this regard. Again, no clear response. A report was mentioned but has thus far not been produced. When questioned, the operations manager said a “walk through” of the site had been done with an ecologist. When pressed he revealed this had occurred while the tree clearance was being done and as such could not realistically be regarded as as a nesting bird survey, being extremely ad-hoc in nature. It was also days before the start of work yesterday and so was too late to be of value. He also stated that only dead trees have been cut, something we dispute.
Sadly, yesterday also proved that the police, rather than seriously investigating the report of a potential breach of the Countryside and Wildlife Act, chose instead to focus on proving that we were protestors and that we were breaching covid restrictions, excusing themselves by stating they were not going to get into politics or that the breach of the wildlife act was a civil matter. Unfortunately, the true reason may be something more basic, who wields the more power? Rather than the law being the guiding principle, it seems other factors came into play.
So yes, yesterday was a tough day on many levels, not least for the wildlife we seek to protect. That is why we continue to do all in our power to hold the council/developer to account.
Many emails have been sent to Cllr Godfrey, the cabinet member with responsibility for the development. Has anyone received a response? To our knowledge no-one has.
We hope that more information will be forthcoming as a result of Cllr Whybrow’s FOI request amongst the many other communications sent to the council but it should not take this level of action to gain basic knowledge from a council that supposedly acts in the best interests of residents.
You can join the campaign by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or like our Facebook page to stay up to date with our activity. There is still much the council must do before the development can be built and we intend to fight it every step of the way. The council must make every effort to keep the public informed, especially if there is a change from the plans laid out in the application. They have a duty to be as transparent as possible.
Save Prince’s Parade (via Facebook)