As a conservation charity, Essex Wildlife Trust is obviously disappointed by this decision, which will see the destruction of nationally important and unique brownfield habitats, with the associated loss of a nationally important and outstanding assemblage of invertebrates.
The site of the former Tilbury Power Station supports around 1400 species of invertebrate, including 31 rare and threatened species – these include the Shrill Carder Bee (Bombus sylvarum), the Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis), the Sea-aster Mining Bee (Colletes halophilus) and the Five-banded Weevil Wasp (Cerceris quinquefasciata). In addition to these rarities, a further 159 invertebrate species of conservation importance are to be found on the site.
Following their own assessment of the site, Natural England stated that “In our opinion, the overall assemblage could be considered to be of sufficient quality to meet the designation requirements of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).”
Their representation continued “It is important to note therefore, that although the habitats and species affected by the proposed development receive some recognition in nature conservation terms (NERC s41, LoWS), that our specialist assessment of the survey data collected indicates the overall invertebrate assemblage to be significant in a national context. Indeed, the Lytag LoWS in particular is regarded as almost unique in England and, whilst as a brownfield habitat it is man-made, would be very difficult to re-create with confidence on a compensation site should it be lost to development.”
Given the robustness of NE’s response, it is disappointing that no further action was taken to progress the SSSI designation for the Lytag local wildlife site. Consequently, the bar for ecological mitigation and compensation has been considerably lowered and a site of irreplaceable quality for some of our rarest and most threatened invertebrates will be destroyed without adequate compensatory habitat being provided.
In light of the recent media focus on reports documenting the global collapse of invertebrate populations, this planning decision is particularly disturbing. Nature must be given a higher priority in decision-making at all levels in order to protect valuable habitats that support rare or threatened species, and to stem the continuing and seriously worrying decline in biodiversity.