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DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT CANNOT 'BYPASS' ENVIRONMENTALISTS' CONCERNS

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A bid to halt the planned Barnstaple Western Bypass in Devon which includes a 2.7-kilometre stretch of new road and...
A bid to halt the planned Barnstaple Western Bypass in Devon which includes a 2.7-kilometre stretch of new road and a 400-metre-long five-span bridge across the River Taw is to go to the Court of Appeal.

Local Friends of the Earth member and objector to the scheme, Anthony Bown, won permission from the court to challenge a decision of the secretary of state for transport to confirm various orders made under compulsory purchase powers following a public inquiry held by a government planning inspector in respect of land required for the construction of the road.

At the inquiry Mr Bown claimed, among other things, that the site should be given the same protection as if it were a special protected area under the Wild Birds EEC Directive and the EEC Habitats Directive and Regulations.

He also claims the project will seriously disturb the large numbers of seabirds in the Taw/Torridge Estuary along with the habitat of endangered otters.

The High Court judge accepted that the project was likely to cause disturbance to protected otters living in the area. But, save for some continuing traffic noise, he said that disturbance was only likely to be temporary.

He said the planning inspector who gave the project the green light was entitled to the view that steps to be taken by Devon CC to minimise the impact on the otter population were adequate and that any disturbance would be 'so small as not to amount to a good reason for refusing to approve the orders.'

In the Court of Appeal, though, Robert McCracken, counsel for Mr Bown, said the claim and appeal raised 'fundamental questions of the extent of the UK's obligations under, and the proper interpretation of, the Wild Birds Directive.'

He claimed that at stake was 'a point of fundamental importance in the application of the Wild Birds Directive, namely whether the passage of time or a change in circumstances can remove the obligation to protect a site which has not bee n designated, but which qualifies for designation.'

Granting permission to appeal, Lord Justice Carnwath, who was sitting with Mr Justice Maurice Kay, said the 'proposed grounds of appeal raised arguable points'.

He directed the matter to come on for hearing by the full Court of Appeal before the end of the month.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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