Letter: Legal measures to protect SSSIs

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The Independent Online
Sir: Not only is there inadequate legal protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (Letters, 10 August), but the environmental damage to these areas caused by road-building schemes does not even enter into the formal cost- benefit analysis undertaken by the Department of Transport. Worse still, the costs incurred in the compulsory purchase of such land are typically relatively small.

Had a proposed route instead threatened a shopping complex or a golf course the enormous compensation involved would probably have led to its rejection in favour of a 'cheaper' alternative. Within the economic constraints currently imposed, it is no wonder that land of the highest environmental value is continually

threatened.

European Community policies offer some encouragement (in spite of the recent decision over Twyford Down). The Birds Directive and more recently the Habitats Directive allow for the designation of Special Protection Areas which will then enjoy additional legal protection. This may help to give environmental considerations their proper place in the planning process.

We are currently fighting to save Hindhead Common and the Devil's Punchbowl (an SSSI, a proposed SPA, and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) from 'improvements' to the A3 London-Portsmouth road. In what may become one of the first British tests of the new EC directives, it remains to be seen whether these new powers will give environmentally valuable sites the protection that they

deserve.

Yours faithfully,

PETER DONNELLY

Hindhead,

Surrey

10 August

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