County timetable is unrealistic

A COUPLE of the statements that Bob Menzies made (Letters, May 2) were misleading. At Over cutting we are dealing with probably the largest population of Grizzled Skipper butterflies in the East of England. While I accept that the county council is meetin

A COUPLE of the statements that Bob Menzies made (Letters, May 2) were misleading.

At Over cutting we are dealing with probably the largest population of Grizzled Skipper butterflies in the East of England. While I accept that the county council is meeting its planning obligations and is in the process of creating alternative habitat for the butterflies, this cannot be achieved within the nine-month timetable that it is working to.

The Wildlife Trust stated this at the public inquiry and has maintained it ever since. It will take at least a decade for suitable conditions to be created on the new land and for some species currently present within Over cutting. The new habitat may never be suitable.

Secondly, Mr Menzies states that seeding was occurring the previous week (I visited the site on May 1, so can confirm that it had just started).


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He also acknowledges that we are in a very dry spring, which is not ideal for planting or seeding. So it is quite beyond me to understand how he can come to the conclusion that "We will have therefore provided the butterflies and other invertebrates with an opportunity to start to colonise the new habitat during this spring-summer season".

Without significant rain there is a real danger that the seed may not germinate, leaving the county council to try again in the autumn or next year, for which it has no budget.

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Finally, during our site visit the site was still completely bare earth over the whole area (approximately seven football pitches). I have no doubt that their ecologist did find eight species but, as gardeners will be aware, these were probably weed species, and couldn't have been the wildflower species that were only just being sown.

The county council appears to be undertaking a PR offensive, based on spin and misleading claims, so I challenge what Mr Menzies has written.

I would suggest that the county council stops making exaggerated claims about its scheme and starts planning what it will do to save the Grizzled Skipper and the other wildlife using Over cutting, if the mitigation isn't as successful as it thinks it will be.

MARTIN BAKER, Conservation manager, (Cambridgeshire & Peterborough), The Wildlife Trust

* MR Bob Menzies's reply to my criticisms of wildlife protection on the guided bus route (Letters, May 2) would be comic if they were not so worrying.

Confronted with a "mitigation site" as bare as Ayres Rock, he asserts that botanists have identified eight species of plant. Let me guess - spear thistle, creeping thistle, sow thistle, bristly ox-tongue, mugwort.

Faced with the fact that the Grizzled Skipper is on the wing in May, he says that the new site will be fine in October, which is when the last butterflies go into hibernation and the JCBs arrive.

He says defensively that the seed mix yet to be used was recommended by me. It was indeed, but no seed mix, however superb, can be hydro-seeded into a site and produce a butterfly friendly turf in two months or even two years.

Asked why the education team has been telling primary school children that the guided bus workers will be saving worms, beetles and even chrysalises, he responds with denial.

What other hard realities have been ignored by the planners of the guided bus? Quite a lot, as we heard at the public enquiry.

They were summed up by the designer of this guided bus system, Arthur Henderson, who clearly felt that the project was doomed. He began with the words: "I shall not be taking any questions."

He then gave a crisp 20-minute summary of why the scheme would fail, and left. Some managers would have been worried by this.

The Cambridgeshire public would be even more worried if they had all been present on day four of the public enquiry, when Graham Hughes, then a senior manager on the guided bus team, said, "The guided bus was never intended to take traffic off the A14."

The Inspector's report confirmed that by 2015 or so, the reduction in traffic would be two to three per cent.

JULIA NAPIER, Friends of Over County Wildlife Site

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