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Protected Bird Oversight Found As Controversial West Acre Park Plans Hit Skids Again

An 'error' has been found in the controversial West Acre Park planning application as protected curlews — large wading birds — have been left out of the planning process.

Now, however, ward councillor and mayor of Ryde, Michael Lilley has now formally requested the scheme be recalled to the planning committee and considered as an entirely new application.

Since the decision to approve the major 473 home-scheme by the Isle of Wight Council’s planning committee in July 2021, Natural England (NE) has spotted an omission.

An officer for the government body has recently pointed out some of the Westridge Farm site is designated as ‘functionally linked land’, in the Solent Waders and Brent Geese (SWBG) Strategy.

The SWBG strategy’s principle is to conserve sites and create new ones where possible, enhancing the quality and extent of the feeding and roosting resource for protected birds of the Solent Coast.

The site supports the curlew, Europe’s largest wading bird that leys its eggs in a ground nest.

Under the approved plans, the officer says it looks as if a portion of their supporting habitat would be lost to development, although the majority would be part of the alternative green space proposed under the scheme.

The designated land was something NE, the Isle of Wight Council or developers Captiva Homes failed to consider during the assessment of the planning application.

A council spokesperson said the issue was raised when the legal agreement with Captiva was being agreed.

They said the planning authority was currently in discussions with both NE and Captiva to resolve the issue.

Captiva said it was working closely with the council and NE to adopt a mitigation strategy.

Cllr Lilley said a large number of material objections were based on environmental issues, especially the importance of Solent waders and migrating birds, but they were dismissed due to Natural England’s lack of objection to the original application.

Cllr Lilley said it is now proved this was incorrect and NE is seeking redress, and planning committee members made their decision on flawed information so the decision made ‘was not fair’.

In a letter to Cllr John Medland, chair of the planning committee, and Cllr Paul Fuller, planning cabinet lead, Cllr Lilley said the only ethical way forward was for an emergency meeting to be called where the application could be declared void, and a new application process started.

Save Westridge Farm, the campaigners ready to launch a judicial review bid once permission is officially granted, said this issue adds weight to their case that there were ‘flaws’ with the decision to approve the application.

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