Rare insect site can be developed




Solicitors Journal



A warehouse can be built on one of the three most important sites for rare insects in Britain, even though alternatives were "barely considered", the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Insect conservation charity Buglife launched a judicial review against the grant of planning permission for the site in Thurrock, Essex. The land, in the Thames Gateway redevelopment area, had been partly occupied by a power station.

In R (on the application of Buglife) v Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation [2008] EWCA Civ 1209, Lord Justice Pill said over 900 species of invertebrate were present on the site.

He said three were particularly important - the brown-banded carder bee, the five-banded weevil wasp and the salt marsh short-spur beetle.

Lord Justice Pill said the development would destroy about 50 per cent of the habitat and 70 per cent of the herb-rich meadow grassland which provides a foraging area for insects.

He said that although the possibility of alternatives was "barely considered" in the planning officer's report, the planning permission should stand.

"However, the obvious advantages of the application site for a distribution depot in the context of a planning application in an urban development area, taken together with the limited adverse effects, as assessed, including on the conservation of biodiversity, the opportunities for mitigation and the positive benefits for the environment, render the respondents' approach appropriate and lawful."

Lord Justice Pill said that Natural England had withdrawn its initial objections to the development, after planning conditions and a detailed section 106 agreement were agreed, including the creation of new habitats.

He said that although there was no detailed, sentence by sentence, analysis of Planning Policy Statement 9 on biodiversity, "its overall tenor was not ignored."

He concluded: "In analysing this planning decision, consideration of the larger picture, the main issues, should not be defeated by over attention to detail, with the risk of thereby losing, in common parlance, the wood for the trees."

Lord Justice Rix and Lady Justice Arden agreed.