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Last Updated: Friday, 22 February 2008, 19:03 GMT
Case to protect marshland fails
Brown-banded carder bee (Copyright Sam Ashfield)
Conservationists say the brown-banded carder bee is under threat
A wildlife charity has failed in a High Court bid to protect rare marshland wildlife in the Thames Estuary from a development project.

Lawyers for conservation group Buglife told the court planning consent should not have been given for a Royal Mail warehouse in Thurrock, Essex.

They told Mr Justice Mitting local wildlife faced "irrevocable damage" from the huge distribution centre.

But the judge said ecological reports showed the damage would be temporary.

Economic benefits

The judge said the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation, which granted planning permission, had taken the reports into full account.

He said that, because adjoining land is protected, it was reasonable to describe the long-term ecological harm as "not significant".

The corporation, which is a quango set up by former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, granted planning permission to promote economic growth in the area.

On the first day of a judicial review into the planning application, Buglife's lawyer said the corporation had allowed the economic benefits of the plan to outweigh the harm it would cause to wildlife.

West Thurrock Marshes
The marshes are home to insects, spiders and other wildlife

For Buglife, Michael Fordham QC told the court permission would never have been granted had the local authority, Thurrock Council, been in charge of the planning application.

The charity says the project threatens irrevocable damage to bees, spiders and beetles at an important wildlife site.

The corporation insists the plan includes an environmental strategy.

Buglife, which is also known as the Invertebrate Conservation Trust, says the development, given the go-ahead in 2006, will endanger already threatened species.

The judge heard the marsh was home to more than 1,300 species of invertebrates, birds and reptiles, including 36 species on the conservation Red Data Book.

Appeal denied

These include the brownbanded carder bee, the saltmarsh shortspur beetle and the humpbacked red ant.

According to Buglife the 15 football pitch-sized development would destroy 70% of their habitat

The charity's director, Matt Shardlow, said the case was the first test of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006).

The legislation requires public authorities to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity.

Buglife was refused permission to appeal against the judge's decision but its lawyers said they would none-the-less seek permission in the Court of Appeal.

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