Conservation order on orchid field

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John Gummer, The Secretary of State for the Environment, issued a conservation order last night on a Site of Special Scientific Interest at the centre of an environmental row.

Mr Gummer issued a Nature Conservation Order on a field at Offham in Sussex which prevents the land's farmer, Justin Harmer, from ploughing it or undertaking "any operations which damage the conservation interest on the land for nine months".

A legal loophole allowed Mr Harmer to plough the land - home to several species of orchids and a rare butterfly - to grow flax, for which he would receive a substantially higher return than for preserving it as an SSSI. Friends of the Earth protesters, using forks and other tools, turned over the four hectare site to save it from being planted with flax and are camping out on the field to protect it.