Talbot Heath Decision Poole here
The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the central issue is whether it can be established confidently, beyond reasonable scientific doubt, that the proposal will not have a significant adverse effect on the integrity of the designated European sites, either in its own right or in combination with other plans or projects having regard to the mitigation measures proposed. The Secretary of State also takes the view that, despite the argument advanced…that an appropriate assessment is unnecessary since, with mitigation measures there would be no significant effect, the terms of the Habitats Regulations are such as to require him to undertake such an assessment before he could grant planning permission and that, in undertaking any such exercise, he should have regard to any representations made by Natural England.
The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the two key elements in the mitigation package are the no-cat or dog covenant and the cat/people proof fence and…he agrees with
her conclusion that little weight can be placed on the long term effectiveness of the no-cat or dog covenant in preventing the keeping of these pets within the new development. He therefore considers that any mitigation scheme would need to be heavily reliant on the efficacy of the cat/people proof fence….
However, the Inspector then goes on to raise doubts as to the feasibility of implementing the fence for the whole of the proposed length …as a result of uncertainties surrounding the Right of Way application and the fact that Talbot Heath is an open access area under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000.
The Secretary of State recognises that the right of access to open access land is not absolute and that it is the points of access that will be restricted. He also recognises that access to open access land can be restricted for ecological purposes under the CROW Act. However, whilst the Secretary of State is not in a position to predict the outcome of the rights of way application, which has to follow its own process, and whether there may be further applications to divert or stop the
path, the fact that this application has been made creates uncertainty as to whether the fence can be erected in its entirety. This would have significant implications for the effectiveness of the cat proof fence in restricting access to the heath at the
Isaacs Close end. These factors weigh significantly against the proposal
Not only does the Secretary of State agree with the doubts raised by the Inspector relating to these two potential access points, but he also shares the concerns of NE and the RSPB regarding the more general efficacy of a linear fence. In particular, he agrees that cats would still be able to enter Talbot Heath round the end; that, in the absence of an effective enforcement of the anti-pet covenant, the number of visits generated by residents with dogs from the proposal would be greater both to Talbot Heath and to other heathland sites; and that there would be potential for deliberate breaching of the fence in view of the direct route to key destinations. Overall, therefore, having regard to the requirements of the Habitats Regulations, the Secretary of State gives significant weight to the advice from Natural England with regard to the proposed mitigation measures and agrees with their overall conclusion that the proposed development on its own is likely to have a significant adverse effect on the integrity of the international sites.
A key precedent.
Naturally RSPB are delighted.
What about George Osbourne? Did Pickles tell him at Cabinet today how he refused this scheme yesterday to implment a European directive.