Woodland quarry battle begins
by Chris Hunter
A four week battle that could
hold historic significance for the future of English woodland has
Protesters turned out in force at
Oakwood House, Maidstone, on Tuesday, to greet officials arriving
for the start of the public inquiry into Gallagher Aggregates' plan
to quarry 81 acres of Oaken Wood near Barming.
Observers say the inquiry will
set a national precedent – as the first big test of new planning
guidelines on ancient woodland.
Sarah Cooper, of the Save Oaken
Wood campaign group, said: "The inspector isn’t local so most
people thought it would be a good idea to show him the level of
Barristers on both sides laid out
the opening arguments before inspector Ian
Macpherson; Gallagher's Andrew Tait arguing there
was a plain need for digging up the ragstone under the wood
- which he said was not ecologically valuable anyway - and the
Woodland Trust's Robert Walton arguing just the opposite: that the
woodland was undebateably ancient and of such value that outweighed
the need for quarrying.
Campaigners worry that the
guidelines in the National Planning Policy Framework, which came
into play earlier this year, provide less protection for ancient
woodland than was previously offered – by stating woodland should
be protected unless the need for and benefits of development
"outweigh the loss."
Read more in Friday's Kent Messenger.
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