Housing project is rejected so toads can keep breeding

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The Independent Online

A colony of toads has halted a million-pound housing project after campaigners claimed it would block the toads' access to a nearby breeding lake.

The plight of the 4,000 amphibians has become a cause célèbre among locals who have protested to prevent the development in the empty paddock in Ringwood, Hampshire. Such is local toad loyalty that residents have staged crossing patrols, to ensure the toads are able to make their way safely across a road at night to their breed ground.

When developers applied to build a 16-house estate on the New Forest field, 84 homeowners objected, fearing the toads' route would be blocked. English Nature, Hampshire Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency were in agreement, and the planning application was rejected.

Ann Van Den Berg, who lives in Toad Cottage opposite the 1.3-acre paddock, which was formerly used to graze animals but is now empty, said: "The toads are important and they need to cross the paddock, which is also designated to become a national park. There are a lot of birds and animals that live there as well, so we are pleased, although it's disappointing for the developers."

English Nature said it could not officially object to the plans because the Bufo bufo, or common toad, is not particularly rare. But a conservation officer, Ken Monroe, contacted New Forest District Council with his concerns, asking it to consider the wildlife.

February is a crucial time for Ringwood's toad community. As the weather becomes milder they migrate to breed in ponds. The toads follow the same route every year, with thousands coming from the fields and dry land to congregate and make the journey together.