A wildlife activist has slammed a quango after repeated requests for information on a porpoise habitat were dismissed as “vexatious”.
Brian Saunders, of Curlew Close, Porthcawl, asked the Countryside Council for Wales about the welfare of harbour porpoises following the construction of a wind monitoring mast at Scarweather Sands, a natural habitat for the creatures, in 2003.
Forty bore holes were also dug in the sea bed in 2005.
The Scarweather scheme, proposed by United Utilities, would see 30 wind turbines built three and a half miles off Porthcawl. Each would be 443 feet high.
Mr Saunders e-mailed Jill Thomas of the Marine Branch of the Welsh Assembly Government claiming the developer had carried out the work without the proper licence.
Amanda McMath, senior marine vertebrate ecologist for CCW, told Mr Saunders that they had advised the developers of the wind farm that they would need a licence if any work, such as noisy construction, was likely to cause disturbance to the harbour porpoises.
Regulation 39 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1994, states that it is an offence to deliberately disturb European protected species, to capture or kill them, to deliberately destroy their eggs or destroy their breeding site or resting place.
Mr Saunders was told it was a matter for the developer to consider whether their work would breach the habitat regulations, and CCW had not considered the work to be in breach.
In August 2007, Mr Saunders wrote to CCW and posed four questions. This included asking them to define the exact circumstances that would allow the developer to undertake the operation without causing an offence. He also asked when CCW had advised the developer about the appropriate licence.
When he did not receive a reply, Mr Saunders contacted CCW’s access to information officer Donna Muirhead expressing his concern at their delay.
On September 28 he received a letter stating that CCW would not reply to his enquiries on the grounds that they were vexatious, had a imposed a significant burden on CCW staff and could be characterised as obsessive or manifestly unreasonable.
Mr Saunders appealed in October but was again refused the information, and when he complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office in March, he was told the case had been closed because he didn’t make his complaint within two months of the appeal response.
AM Alun Cairns also contacted CCW.
“They told him they weren’t answering the questions as Scarweather was on hold,” said Mr Saunders.
“This is supposed to be a free society. They haven’t even attempted to answer the questions. Why won’t they answer them?
“This is a habitat of harbour porpoises. We’re talking about where they live, how they live and what they live on.”
When the Gazette put Mr Saunders’ questions to CCW, Dr David Parker, director of science, said: “The Countryside Council for Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s specialist advisor on issues concerning the conservation of special areas of conservation and special protection areas, which are protected under European law. We work closely with developers to ensure any work carried out at these special sites has no significant impact on the wildlife of these areas.”
by Julia Bosnyak, Glamorgan Gazette
8 May 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding