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WALES: Hundreds of newts die in official refuge; County reported to EC over claims site was neglected.

Byline: By CARL BUTLER

A POPULATION of protected rare newts has been decimated on a site which was supposed to be looked after by the council.

Hundreds of great crested newts have been reduced to just a handful near the site of the Broughton Retail Park.

Flintshire county councillor Klaus Armstrong-Braun is now reporting his own authority to the European Commission, claiming it has breached EU law.

"What has gone on here is disgraceful," said the Saltney councillor. He claims hundreds of the rare creatures have died off and only a handful are left.

Coun Armstrong-Braun actually stood in front of mechanical diggers in his fight in the 1990s to protect the newts during development of the retail park.

An area of mitigation land was set aside for the newts near the Glynne pub which was to be managed by Flintshire County Council. But Mr Armstrong-Braun claims the council has failed to look after the land despite being allocated funds.

He reported the state of the land to the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG).

This week, Chris Worker of WAG's nature conservation branch wrote to him: "The original mitigation site was managed by Flintshire County Council under the provisions of a section 106 Agreement. Management by Flintshire CC was not focused on delivering favourable conservation status.

"The reason for this included location of this receptor site and size of the ponds. Since 2000, the great crested newt population has declined. Key reasons include the site not being subject to focused and effective conservation management.

"The conservation status of this particular (sub) population has therefore not been maintained following completion of the retail shopping park.

"To address conservation status of the species within and in the immediate environs of the shopping park, a new compensation scheme was subsequently negotiated that included the creation of 12 new ponds and dedicated management by an amphibian-based conservation organisation. This management is to be effectively resourced.

"One of the design parameters of this new "reserve" was that this design would enable outstanding conservation status issues to be addressed. To date three newts have been found, these have been relocated to this new site. This equates to four new ponds per newt so far.

"Whilst it would be entirely appropriate to pursue the issue of Flintshire's previous failure in their duty of care, we welcome the new project, and hope this represents a greater awareness on their part regarding their duties to nature conservation."

But, said, Coun Armstrong-Braun, the new site in no way excuses the failure to look after the original site and in fact is mitigation for major improvements anticipated to the A55 junction which brings traffic off the dual carriageway and into Broughton Park.

"What has happened here is completely unlawful. This 'new reserve' does not excuse what happened on the original site."

No-one was available to comment yesterday from Flintshire council due to the strike.

carlbutler@dailypost.co.uk

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Klaus Armstrong-Braun has reported Flintshire Council to the EC over what he claims is its failure to look after rare great crested newts on a site near the Broughton Retail Park
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 17, 2008
Words:519
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