Monday, 12 November 2012

County Council: "We See No Otters"

Otters at Halton by Stan Parrott. More pictures:
Lancaster County Council seems to be getting itself into a spin over the proposed Heysham M6 Link Road, now claiming that otters seen on the Lune near its planned river crossing do not exist – despite photographs taken by locals and reports about their reappearance in the local press.

The presence of otters in the Lune could put paid to the plans as they stand, as the mammals are a protected species and any development work that threatens their habitat will need careful consideration under EU regulations – and might indeed kill the scheme entirely.

Local residents have taken images of up to 15 individual otters around the Lune at Halton, with family groups including three females and seven cubs, over a long period of time. One fascinating video sequence shows a family devouring a 30lb salmon which they have caught.

Several otter experts say that this population at Halton is something they have not witnessed before, and some are busy preparing a new book which will feature the rich otter life at Halton. Their presence apparently is of County significance, and probably of national importance too.

"It is generally acknowledged that otter numbers are increasing because the water quality in the River Lune has improved lately," notes Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe chair David Gate. "This is a glowing commendation of Lancashire County Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan, which aims to improve water quality to attract otters.

"Yet, strangely, the County Council are denying that otters live here," he notes. "At the recent examination in to the Heysham M6 Link Road, a LCC representative who went to look for otters couldn’t find any, but heard a 'plop' in the river and guessed it was a rat."

The proposed £123 million road would damage the otters’ habitat, and result in a decline in numbers, but unbelievably the County Council has failed to do the surveys which they are legally obliged to carry out, as otters are a species protected by British and European law.

Local resident John Wilding says: “It is extraordinary that the County Council are denying what we are seeing with our own eyes. We are dealing with the so-called 'Environment Department'. It should be renamed the Environment Destruction Department.”

Another local resident Mike Jacob adds: “This is hugely important new evidence that the Planning Examiner will have to take on board. Even County Councils cannot ride rough-shod over national and European legislation.”

Back in 2004, the presence of Great Crested Newts was blamed as the reason for abandonning plans for a Western Bypass of Lancaster – although it is more likely that fierce and well-organised opposition to that road plan had more to do with a change of route.

The Morecambe Visitor reported then that an environmental impact study released by Lancashire County Council concluded that the western route would impact heavily on two species protected by the European Union – the great crested newt and bats. It would also impact on sites of special scientific interest.

The report described the choice of the western route as "perverse" and "lacking in logic" and the chances of it being passed by a public inquiry would be between "0 and 10 per cent".

Rather than investigate traffic reducing alternatives other than a new road, the County immediately focused almost all its energies on making the current route - then known as the Northern Bypass - a reality.


Chris Satori said...

Otterly lovely! A great local asset and attraction. Very uplifting news. I suggest we call that section of the Lune Millenium cycletrack 'Ottersway'.

Anonymous said...

The TSLM crowd are off again!

If disturbed, the otters would just move up or down river a few metres, then possibly return back to the same spot when the work is complete.

No one wants to harm the otters, but let common sense prevail. The M6 link would be good for all in the area.

Chris Satori said...

The problem is, from TSLM we get thorough research and transparent and disciplined adherence to the planning process.

From the County Council we get misleading estimates, hidden costs, breathtaking liability, stonewalling and general gamesmanship unanchored in any detectable evidence of any 'good for all'.

It's our money. Common sense dictates that we do the maths and check the facts and ignore vacuous woffle about 'good for all'.

By the time an M6 link could be completed, who will be able to afford petrol, which will be well past £5 a litre by then? We'll be too busy trying to pay for all our cancer treatments. If this is your business transport plan, well.. duh.

These surviving otters from a native species close to extinction by effluent and roadkill in the most crowded country in Europe symbolise the need for a competent reality check.

Anonymous said...

"we get misleading estimates, hidden costs, breathtaking liability, stonewalling and general gamesmanship"

Chris, nice diatribe, but you'll find that not only do we get the above from the County Council, but it's a common situation in Councils all over the country - and within all the various political parties.

Is there a problem getting from the M6 to Morecambe/Heysham... yes there certainly is. Most commuters in the area would agree with this and would welcome a solution.

Those who are against any new road schemes are usually those who in close proximity to any proposed new works. It's just a shame when these people use any excuse - otters, newts, bats etc - to stop 'progress' when, truth be told, it's (understandably) just their own personal interests that they are trying to protect.

John Freeman said...

If by personal interest, you mean their health, a desire not to have thousands of cars streaming through a village not designed for such traffic, the carving up of more green belt and perplexity as to why the County has failed to investigate any other cheaper alternatives other than a road to solve traffic problems, then I for one can understand where they're coming from. I don't see that shaving five minutes off local journey times is worth spending over £100 million on.

Have a look at online archives of the local press. The fact is that almost everyone argued the Northern Bypass was a bad route when the Western Bypass was road builders preferred option; when that got canned after virulent opposition from campaigners, road supporters suddenly decided the Northern route was an amazingly brilliant idea. Skerton Labour Party argued against it but was ignored by the wider local Labour Party; plenty of alternative cheaper ideas have been suggested but ignored by County.

They even made one obvious idea - Park and Ride - dependent on a green light for the current Link plan. Why?

Donald said...

Anon: Why does "Progress" always have to mean more of everything (more cars, more roads) and technology as a solution to everything? . Could we not try a little 'progressive' thinking and creative solutions for a change? I was until recently an avid car driver miserably crawling along in an almost stationary chain of cars, each with one person sitting equally miserably behind the wheel. Circumstances beyond my control meant I lost my car. I won't look back. I have to travel all over the district and the NW for my work on a daily basis and get there more quickly and more relaxed, of course the alternatives are not without problems of their own. But I for one will not be changing back even if I had the chance. Come on in, the water is lovely - just ask the Otters.

Anonymous said...

The truth is otters love the underside of motorway bridges. Just pull off at the Carnforth junction 35 and look under the M6 bridges...they love them!
The fist half of the bypass was built in the 80's, lets get it finished!

Unknown said...

I was walking over skerton bridge today being 07/02/14 when I looked in the river and there it was swimming trow the water there are otters in lancaster lune