As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

RSPB Media Release: RSPB "appalled" by destruction of wildlife-rich land in Devon by NHS

Media release


RSPB “appalled” by destruction of wildlife-rich land in Devon by NHS
The RSPB has this morning sent a formal letter of complaint to Devon NHS bosses concerning the wilful destruction of land near Exminster. The site, Hillcrest, is home to a nationally important population of cirl buntings. The charity believes this is a deliberate move to reduce the nature conservation value of the land in order to gain planning permission for development.
The cirl bunting is almost entirely restricted to south Devon, particularly coastal land in south Devon. The species almost became extinct in the UK in the late 1980s. But due to the hard work of the RSPB and farmers its numbers have started to recover. The charity is now concerned that destruction of land for development poses a growing threat for the bird.
Mark Robins, Senior Policy Officer for RSPB in the South West explained; “The RSPB has worked at Hillcrest for 15 years in partnership with NHS locally. This has included an active volunteer engagement from amongst the local community, to create high quality wildlife habitat especially for the cirl bunting.  This has been a marvellous joint enterprise that fully reflected the values of the New Leaf project at Hillcrest  - itself centred on social cohesion, environmental improvement and the local community.

“The RSPB paid for spring barley to go on the site - the resulting stubble with its rich bank of weed seed is what these birds rely on in winter. Last week without any consultation with us that was sprayed and ploughed in. We've also worked to leave un-cropped grassy margins round the field - rich in invertebrates. These too have been sprayed and ploughed in. We also worked to get the hedges right for the birds. These have now been flailed.

“And this hasn’t been done by mistake. In July we supplied site ecological data to the environmental consultants acting for NHS and included in our cover note; “the RSPB would be extremely concerned at any development at this site and we wish to be consulted on proposals”

“But now the site is destroyed. To say the least, we are livid.

The RSPB is all about giving nature a home and especially doing so in partnership with others, especially the local community. It is this wider context that adds to our anger at what has happened. We are not party to the full background but it appears to us that a deliberate decision was taken to sacrifice the wildlife value of the site as part of a determination to make it easier to gain planning permission for development.

“While we understand that the Devon NHS Trust is at liberty to manage its estate as it feels fit, including developing the land, the way this has been undertaken has left no opportunity to seek good outcomes for nature. The NHS has a duty to have regard to the natural environment, to set a good example. What has been done here is the precise opposite.”

The RSPB has asked the NHS to give urgent consideration to three key issues:

  • An adequate explanation, not to just the RSPB, but also the local community.
  • Short-term mitigation for the loss of the wintering habitat for the key species on this site.
  • Replacement habitat for what has been lost as a result of this action.


For further information, images or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Tony Whitehead, RSPB Press Officer, 01392 453754, 07872 414365

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