Dormice stand in way of road

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The Independent Online
PROTESTERS are hoping the discovery of a colony of dormice on the path of the proposed A34 Newbury by-pass in Berkshire will delay the construction of the eight-mile road which is due to start in January.

The nest of dormice, a rare species, was discovered in Great Penn last May but revealed to Friends of the Earth campaigners only this week. Tony Juniper of the ecology group said the discovery adds weight to arguments that the Department of Transport failed to assess properly environmental considerations when choosing the route of the road. The European 'Habitats Directive', which was passed last June, says that breeding sites of animal species at risk should not be destroyed.

The A34 by-pass is one of the most controversial new roads in the Government's pounds 2bn per year roads programme, as it passes through three sites of special scientific interest, two of which are just about to be officially designated, as well as part of the battlefield of Newbury, the village of Bagnor and a rare bog habitat. Mr Juniper said: 'You name it and this road passes through it.'

The Department of Transport has asked English Heritage to move the dormice, and traps are being laid. The Government says it has the right to circumvent the European directive in circumstances where the destruction of a habitat is the consequence of a lawful action.

Mr Juniper rejects this, and points out that there is an alternative to disturbing the dormice - a tunnel underneath the centre of Newbury.