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Buckland homeowner Claire Hall gets letter from Highways England asking to search her garden for newts

By Sam Lennon

Roads officials have asked a puzzled homeowner if they can scour her property for newts.

Highways England wants Claire Hall's permission to check her front and back gardens for protected animals.

It is standard practice for ecological surveys to be done before highways work to check for rare species such as great crested newts, the UK's most heavily protected amphibian species.

Claire Hall with the letter she got from Highways England
Claire Hall with the letter she got from Highways England

Highways England is trying to find space for a lorry park to try and prevent a repeat of Operation Stack, but the letter to Miss Hall does not specify exactly what work might be done near her.

The 34 year-old, of Natal Road, Buckland, Dover, said: “I was very confused as to what relevance my property has to this.

“I wouldn’t regard myself to being close to any potential development.

“I can’t be the only one to have got this letter, I’m sure my neighbours also have.

“The letter doesn’t explain exactly why they want to do this.

“I would assume they are looking to put a lorry park in the area.

Operation Stack could happen again after the UK leaves the EU
Operation Stack could happen again after the UK leaves the EU

“I will agree to them accessing my land, I am just puzzled as to what the purpose is.”

The letter from Highways England explains that this is a study ahead of work for a permanent solution to Operation Stack.

It has been asked by the government to offer proposals to reduce traffic congestion caused when there is cross-Channel disruption.

There would be studies for areas surrounding the M20/A20 and M2/A2 corridors and Miss Hall’s home is close to the A2 at Whitfield.

These are due to begin early next year when there will also be a public consultation.

This is so people can give feedback on various road widening and lorry holding site proposals.

"We are continuing work to identify a permanent solution for Operation Stack... the next stage of this work is to carry out new, or update previous, studies at a range of locations to help us understand things like the ecology of the land" - Highways England

But Highways England have not made clear to Miss Hall exactly what work might be done near her home.

Its letter says: “The type of work is part of a regular process throughout a scheme’s development and is not necessarily indicative of any land needed for the construction of any scheme.”

Licensed ecologists would be used to study potential habitats and, feeding and breeding areas of protected species.

These also include birds, bats, dormice, reptiles, badgers, water voles and otters.

In some cases all the ecologists would have to do is leave monitoring equipment.

A Highways England spokesman said: “Alongside other work we are doing in Kent that will improve the county’s resilience to cross-Channel disruption, we are continuing work to identify a permanent solution for Operation Stack.

“We carried out a public information and listening exercise in summer to seek people’s views on what this permanent solution could be.

"The next stage of this work is to carry out new, or update previous, studies at a range of locations to help us understand things like the ecology of the land.

"We have written to landowners asking for permission to do this.

“These studies do not indicate that any decisions have been taken, and we plan to put a more defined range of options to the public for their views again in the first half of next year.”

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