Conservation: Warbler Power
Cox, David, New Statesman (1996)
With 1.3 million new dwellings planned there, the south-east of England is the region set to be changed most by the government's huge housebuilding programme. And that is where the scheme has encountered an unexpected obstacle. The resistance comes not from nimbyish householders but from birds--Dartford warblers, nightjars and woodlarks, to be precise, all of them threatened and all of them backed by the might of the European Union.
To safeguard threatened birds, the EU requires the creation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs). These are overseen in England by English Nature, which has imposed a revolutionary regime to protect these three species at an SPA near Guildford, in Surrey.
Not only has English Nature banned development within the SPA, but it has also demanded a "cordon sanitaire" around it, within which any development must be accompanied by the creation of green open spaces. As a result, plans for 40,000 houses have been put immediately at risk.
In an already heavily populated area, it argues, visits by people living in additional new housing--dog-walkers, kite-flyers, picnickers and the like--would place too much pressure on the SPA's vulnerable wildlife. The agency wants to see new recreation areas set up to divert newcomers to places where they will do less harm. …