Newhaven Port and Properties (NPP) has defended its decision to start work at Tide Mills before planning permission has been granted for its proposed harbour expansion.
The company is currently undertaking a reptile translocation on land that is the subject of a planning application, due to be discussed by Lewes District Council’s planning committee later this month.
Geoff King, of Marine Drive in Seaford, said: “A digger has arrived and work has started at this much-valued local beauty spot. There is a digger and fencing contractors erecting ‘reptile barrier fencing’ in preparation for catching and moving these reptiles to another area of Tide Mills.
“It would appear NPP’s consultants are assuming planning consent will be granted. They have said they would normally wait until after a planning decision to start translocation work so that any work is not undertaken unnecessarily. However, as the planning decision is not expected now until August 18, they will be starting the work this week so that it is carried out within the optimal translocation period for reptiles.
“This work not only destroys the original habitat of these reptiles but also destroys a second habitat by introducing alien species to it.”
However the landowners, NPP are within their rights to carry out a reptile translocation without planning permission.
Port manager, Captain François Jean, said: “We are undertaking the reptile translocation with the agreement of the planning office in Lewes. In addition, the County Ecologist has provided advice on the methodology.
“The Friends of Tide Mills have been informed in due course, prior to the beginning of this translocation.
“NPP is giving a great consideration to the environment, particularly in the Tide Mills area. One of five key strategic priorities of Port Masterplan is to enhance the natural maritime environment by establishing a public access conservation area on port land.
“This is what we are carrying out with the ecological mitigation and management group, of which the Friends of Tide Mills are members.
“This area is dedicated to port development, which will contribute to Newhaven regeneration creating jobs for the local community.”
A spokesperson for Lewes District Council said: “The reptile works which are being carried out do not need planning permission to go ahead, as they do not constitute a start on the development proposed in the planning application.
“Therefore, the council is not ‘allowing’ them, but the applicant has chosen to proceed with these works, knowing that a decision on the planning application for port expansion has not yet been made. The works are being carried out following discussion and liaison with the County Ecologist, the Sussex Wildlife Trust and Natural England, all of whom are aware that the work is taking pace.”
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