Bellamy joins battle to save colony of great crested newts: Rare amphibians' habitat earmarked by council for 35-acre rubbish tip

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The Independent Online
PROFESSOR David Bellamy, the biologist, stood welly-deep in a sodden Dorset field near the Hardy village of Holnest yesterday, and upbraided Dorset County Council's scheme to turn the landscape into a gigantic rubbish tip for the urban dustbins of Sherborne, five miles to the north.

Lambs gambolled in an adjoining field as Professor Bellamy - warming up for a press conference today - conducted a personal survey of the area looking for a threatened colony of great crested newts, a protected species.

A small entourage from the British Herpetological Society, which studies reptiles, local Liberals and the campaign group Holford Against the Rubbish Tip (HART), stumbled over barbed wire fences in the great man's wake and listened to him dropping names of countries which do these things more sensibly than Britain.

Posing in a newt-breeding pond, Professor Bellamy put the plight of the little rural community on his broad atlas of world conservation.

'This is England,' he boomed. 'This is what people think it should look like today, so why destroy it? The great crested newt's our most spectacular amphibian. Knocking it out is like knocking out the Komodo dragon in South-east Asia.

'They're getting rarer and rarer and rarer. I've just finished an audit of the state of Singapore and they're bringing their proportion of landfill rubbish down to 8 per cent.

'I went to Russia and we went in the Kremlin and met Yeltsin's right-hand man. He said: 'You come from a group of offshore islands. What environment have you got left in Britain? What the hell are you doing here?'

'Sometimes I'm bloody amazed we've got anything left here at all. What we've got we should spend money on to enhance, not put bloody rubbish on it. If I was down here I'd throw the blooming council out for wasting my money.'

Liberal Democrats have vowed to scrap the tip scheme if they overthrow the Tories' narrow majority at next month's local elections.

Robin Legg, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group, which estimates that the council has so far spent pounds 338,500 on buying and investigating the 35-acre site, said: 'We'd be looking at other sites short-term, and long-term the construction of one or more waste-to-energy power stations within the county.'

Locals are still angry at the way Dorset officials acquired the area. The farm was left to Roy and Derek Powell by their father in 1982. Eight years later, Derek Powell sold his share at public auction unaware that the successful bidder - at pounds 78,500 - was Bonoy Roy, a senior county valuer.

The two brothers have not spoken to each other since the sale. Roy Powell's wife declined to discuss their feud yesterday. 'We just pray all this will be stopped, the sheer stupidness of the thing.'

The salmon population of the river used as the setting for the book Tarka the Otter, by Henry Williamson, is to get a major boost as the culmination of a 10-year programme to bring the once 'dead' waters back to life.

Around 7,000 one-year-old salmon, artificially reared by the National Rivers Authority, are to be released into the river Torridge and a number of its tributaries in the West Country this week. The exercise is part of a major fisheries rehabilitation of the river.

(Photograph omitted)