Independent report may have solved problems

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A former South Holland councillor is ready to fight his old authority because he says it failed to seek expert advice on a £200million gasifier’s likely impact on protected wildlife in The Wash.

Paul Espin, a former chairman of The Wash Estuary Strategy Group, has formally complained to the council because it gave planning consent to the gasifier at Sutton Bridge when Natural England made it clear the authority was under an obligation to ensure protected species surveys were done.

He says the planning department’s report to committee members did not include Natural England’s key advice on The Wash Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).

Natural England is the Government’s own expert body on wildlife and there are 157 protected species in The Wash BAP area, which is of international importance.

Mr Espin says no surveys were carried out and planning committee members “could not make a reasoned decision in the absence of that information”.

He said: “South Holland District Council was a funding partner and agreed to The Wash BAP and I think it’s inexcusable that they ignored it.

“Having spent 30 years working in and around The Wash in an environmental context, I am personally very concerned at the lack of consideration for The Wash, which is the most highly designated estuary system in the country.

“It is unacceptable that The Wash should be put at risk, not only for myself but for the millions of people that live in, work in and visit The Wash area.”

Mr Espin’s complaint to the council could well land on the desk of the Local Government Ombudsman if it cannot be settled, but he expects the authority to try to “brass it out”.