Where were they when it counted?

I WAS absolutely livid with rage when I read last week’s article, Natural world must top agenda, by Mike Pratt, chief executive of Northumberland Wildlife Trust on page four of the Gazette.

Was this the same Mike Pratt who had responded to Northumberland County Council’s consultation of the intensive cattle farm development at Dunstan Steads saying: ‘The Trust notes that this application is in close proximity to Northumberland Shore Site of Special Scientific Interest? However, given the scale of this proposal, the Trust has no objections to this proposal at the current time’?

The blatant hypocrisy of this man.

Under his very nose, there is a proposal for a development which is highly likely to have an adverse effect on an important wildlife corridor leading from the shore at Embleton Burn up a wooded dene for several miles inland just a few metres from the site.

It is well known locally, by local residents and the National Trust that a number of protected species use this area including badgers, barn owls, bats, herons, red squirrels, toads.

As Mr Pratt points out, the new National Planning Policy Framework does recognise the importance of planning positively for the natural environment and indeed newly recognises the importance of ‘wildlife corridors’ which enable animals to move between habitats.

So why on earth doesn’t this man and his organisation actually practice what they preach?

I totally agree with his quote last week saying: ‘The passion local people have for their local wildlife was the trigger for the formation of The Wildlife Trusts 100 years ago.’

It is the same passion we need now to ensure the planning system lives up to its potential to have a positive role in creating wildlife-rich places where people want to live.”

Indeed.

So where was Mr Pratt on Thursday evening when 60 local residents present at the council planning hearing were disappointed by the go-ahead for the barn development at Dunstan Steads?

I didn’t hear him address the meeting to say that it is illegal to carry out development work at such a site where there is a likelihood of it affecting protected species.

I didn’t see David Feige from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty there either, as the AONB’s written contribution was that this is ‘arable land’ and a wildlife survey was not necessary.

I demand both their resignations.

Shame on them.

Monica Cornall

Dunstan Steads Farmhouse

Dunstan Steads