BBC unearths a can of worms on Isle of Wight in search of dinosaurs

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The Independent Online

The BBC has been accused of "raping and pillaging" an environmentally sensitive stretch of the coastline during its recent televised search for dinosaurs.

Pneumatic drills and mechanical diggers were used by the corporation to tear into a stretch of coastline that is protected and prone to erosion, during its recent Live from Dinosaur Island programme.

Bill Oddie, the former star of The Goodies, hosted the programme from the Isle of Wight that followed the progress of five dinosaur digs on the island's south-east side – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Heritage Coast.

The Isle of Wight Council has written to the BBC voicing its concerns, and local amateur collectors have denounced the corporation. They agree that the sites have all been reinstated, but feel the work may contribute to the already rapid coastal erosion in the area.

Hazel Underwood, a fossil hunter who lives near one of the dig sites said: "I have known these beaches for years and I am concerned the BBC may have contributed to the erosion of these cliffs. To use big machinery against fragile cliffs is crass. People here are liking it to rape and pillage of the countryside."

The Isle of Wight Council is concerned not only at the scale of the BBC digging and the period of notice they received about the intentions of the programme-makers, but also that the programme may prompt an invasion of inexperienced dinosaur hunters.

The council's senior planning officer, Chris Boulter, confirmed a letter had been sent to the show's producers. "We were concerned there were operations undertaken that may have required planning permission. We would have liked earlier notification," he said.

A BBC spokeswoman said the programme had been made in full consultation with agencies including English Nature, Crown Estates, the National Trust and the council. An independent geographical survey had also been commissioned that found the area being dug would have succumbed to natural erosion within a year in any case.