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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
High Court special status challenge
Stone curlew
The owner says the decision could affect the value of his land
A landowner is challenging the special status given to thousands of acres of Breckland to protect rare stone curlews.

The Honourable Patrick Fisher says English Nature misunderstood its role when it designated his land on the Norfolk-Suffolk border as a rigorously protected Site of Special Scientific Interest.

He says the decision could have a dire impact both on the management of his land and on its value and is asking the High Court to overturn it.

Before the hearing Mr Fisher said he well understood why the interests of the stone curlew made it necessary for the land to be given the lower Special Protection Area (SPA) status.

This seems like a bureaucratic land grab and discourages landowners from co-operating with English Nature and RSPB on conservation projects.
The Honourable Patrick Fisher
"I and other landowners are proud to have the stone curlew on our land and do all we can to see it thrive.

"It is through the active management of landowners that the stone curlew numbers have increased," he said.

But he believes the SSSI designation was "unnecessary, as the bird is fully protected in other ways."

"Not only does it do nothing to help, but to owners this seems like a bureaucratic land grab and discourages landowners from co-operating with English Nature and RSPB on conservation projects.

"It also adversely affects the value of this sort of property."

'Unique and radical'

English Nature's decision in August 2001 to designate 32,950 acres of farm land as a breeding ground for the rare birds was "unprecedented, unique and radical", said David Holgate QC, representing Mr Fisher.

Mr Holgate said only pockets of the acres covered by the SSSI designation provided temporary habitat for single pairs of endangered stone curlews between March and October.

Mr Fisher and other affected landowners were convinced that the SSSI designation was a step too far.

He argued that English Nature had failed to appreciate the distinctions between SSSIs and SPAs and failed to strike a fair balance between the need to protect the birds and the interests of landowners.

The hearing continues.


SEE ALSO:
Rare bird is ringed
20 May 03  |  Suffolk
Rare bird nests on air base
24 Apr 03  |  Suffolk


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