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Geese to be ‘safe’

WILDLIFE experts have said the protected birds in Pagham should be safe from intended housing.


Officers at Natural England believe the proposed homes should still go ahead, in spite of the presence of dark-bellied brent geese, which flock to the area in the winter.


One of the three large open sites in Pagham intended to take hundreds of homes – Pagham South – is just outside the 400m buffer area around the Pagham Harbour special protection area. The proximity prompted planning inspector Mark Dakeyne to ask for further evidence about the impact of any development on the birds before he decided on Arun District Council’s local plan to allocate areas for development.


Natural England’s response was reported to councillors on Monday.


Alison Giacomelli, of the organisation, said the mitigation intended to be included in the local plan meant there would be no adverse effect on the integrity of Pagham Harbour as a result of any potential impacts on foraging brent geese.


She states: “…it is Natural England’s view that the use of the Pagham South allocation by foraging brent geese does not represent a constraint to allocating the site in the local plan.


“This is because mitigation measures are available should an assessment at the planning application stage demonstrate that they are necessary.”


But she recommended a further winter survey was carried out to find out if it backed residents’ comments about the extent of the use of the fields by the geese.


Campaigners in PAGAM (Pagham and Aldwick Greenfields Action Movement), as reported, have asked residents to help their fight by recording sightings of geese in the fields this winter. Brent geese are on the amber list of species at risk.


The eelgrass at Pagham Harbour, a special protection area, and on the Ramsar list of internationally important wetlands, is their favourite food. The Pagham South site for 400 homes consists of 24.52 hectares over four fields. Earlier this year, Urban Edge Environmental Consulting produced a report for the district council about the measures which would help to lessen the impact of any housing on Pagham South.


It also says adequate overwintering bird surveys should accompany any planning application. But it adds: “The allocation is free from adjacent development to the north, west and south with Pagham Road and residential areas beyond forming the eastern boundary.


“There are no records of Brent goose having used land within the allocation but 12 records from adjacent or nearby fields in five locations within 400m of the allocation. At a strategic level of plan-making and assessment, it is concluded development at Pagham South is unlikely to result in a direct loss of supporting habitat and would not, therefore, threaten the integrity of the SPA/Ramsar.”

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