Our elected politicians and councillors regularly pay lip service to the environment, to the need to be “sustainable”, and to the importance of conserving biodiversity. How many of them really believe this?
Fewer than half, if Derby Council is a representative sample. Last night they decided (by one vote) to destroy almost fifty percent of The Sanctuary Local Nature Reserve, to build a cycle track. Whilst not the most critical area for nature conservation in the country, The Sanctuary is nonetheless an important local urban site for a wide range of nesting birds, some of them rare and declining in the UK. There’s a great video from a drone flight over the Reserve that gives a sense of the place, which I’ve never visited but nonetheless feel aggrieved at losing. It diminishes us all when decisions such as this are made.
The fact that this was designated as a Local Nature Reserve by Derby Council in 2006, following a much-trumpeted opening ceremony, presided over by the then-Home Secretary Margaret Beckett MP in 2004, shows what a shower of hypocrites some of our local politicians really are. I was first made aware of the campaign to save The Sanctuary by a guest post over on Mark Avery’s blog. As requested, I wrote to Derby Council as follows:
To whom it may concern,
Following recent national publicity about the proposed development of The Sanctuary Local Nature Reserve (LNR) at Pride Park in Derby, I wish to object in the strongest possible terms about this initiative.
The Sanctuary LNR is a site of county-level importance for nature conservation and its disturbance would be a sad indictment of the council’s attitude towards the environment. It would also set a disturbing precedent for other councils to ignore nature conservation designations purely for economic development.
I look forward to hearing in the national media that this development will not go ahead.
I also posted links on all of the Facebook groups of which I’m a member, sent it to students, and so on. And despite strong objections to the Council from local and national sources, councillors decided that it was better to follow the money rather than listen to the people.
So much for democracy. But as I said above, it also sets a precedent for the loss of Local Nature Reserves nationally: apparently they are dispensable. In a recent post I gave an indication of how I feel about biodiversity offsetting and the mind set of politicians who support it. The events of Derby don’t give me any more confidence that our elected representatives really care about nature, beyond sound bites and posturing. Protection of sites for nature conservation seems to be as much a throw of the dice as any rational strategy in the UK.