This highly unusual move followed a previous delay of six months, putting the decision over a year behind schedule. In what is a highly unusual situation, this unprecedented third delay has been welcomed by the team leading the challenge on behalf the RHS.
Junction 10 lays adjacent to the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) is an internationally important heathland habitat protected at the highest level for three species of breeding birds, nightjar, woodlark and Dartford warbler.
Baker Consultant’s MD, Andrew Baker, is often called on as an Ecology Expert Witness for public inquiries and was asked by the RHS to act as its expert ecology witness on the ecological effects of nitrogen deposition to the DCO hearing into the project. Andrew has been working on this case for the past 18 months, presenting a significant body of evidence on ecological matters in relation to the effects the scheme would have on the adjacent Thames Basin Heaths SPA.
The project would cause the loss of parts of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA and increase nitrogen pollution of sensitive heathland habitats. If granted the project would also have severe implications for the RHS’s historic garden at Wisley. The RHS had proposed an alternative alignment which would be much less damaging but this was dismissed by Highways England leading the RHS to oppose the DCO and launch a petition in an attempt to achieve a less damaging scheme.
Andrew Baker said: “It was clear to me when we first reviewed the data present by Highways England that the ecological impacts of the scheme had not been properly assessed.”
The negative impact the SPA would be the immediate loss of 5 hectares of healthland. Significantly Highways England failed to properly assess the effects of nitrogen deposition which was the crux of the evidence submitted by Baker Consultants on behalf the RHS.
Of the evidence submitted by Baker Consultants, David Alexander, Principal Surveyor and RHS lead on the project said: “The involvement and contribution made by Baker Consultants has been considerable, with Andrew Baker contributing to the legal team with insightful expert witness advice that has been key in helping the RHS bring its counter-argument forwards. The judgement now sits with the Secretary of State, the outcome of which we keenly anticipate in the coming weeks.
We had an environmental duty to point out the flaws of Highways England scheme and demonstrate better alternatives for ourselves, our neighbours, and the nation’s well-being and we continue to hope that the right decision is made for this junction for the Special Protection Area, for our RHS Garden, our visitors, the environment and local residents.”
Andrew Baker said of today’s new development: “We are very pleased that the Secretary of State has decided to delay the decision in order to further consider environmental matters. The RHS proposed an alternative solution that would be much less damaging to the Thames Basin Heaths SPA.”
Get in touch with the team on email@example.com if you need help with a planning project. You can also get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or by phone on +44 (0)1629 593958.