Warning bird disturbance mitigation ‘may be ineffectual’

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C120061-3 Chi Harbour phot kate''Birds in Chichester Harbour.C120061-3 ENGSNL00120120114142632

Plans for coastal rangers to advise dog owners to how to avoid bird disturbance could be ‘ineffectual’, some councillors have warned.

Chichester District Council is one of many organisations to sign up to the Solent Recreation Mitigation Strategy, which will see financial contributions sought from developers building new homes within 5.4 kilometres of special protection areas.

The Solent coast is of worldwide importance for wildlife and if birds are disturbed by dogs they may not gain enough weight to survive the summer migration.

The money will fund a partnership manager, a team of between five and seven coastal rangers, communications, marketing and education, initiatives to encourage responsible dog walking, codes of conduct for various coastal activities, provide secure habitats for birds, and new or enhanced green spaces as alternatives to visiting the coast.

Cabinet members and councillors agreed to adopt the strategy on Tuesday (February 6).

But Conservative Simon Lloyd-Williams called the charge on new homes an ‘extravagance’ and suggested they pass and enforce by-laws instead.

Adrian Moss, Lib Dem councillor for Fishbourne, described how they were building houses ‘much too close to Chichester Harbour’.

He also raised the fact that just two rangers would be covering the stretch of coast from Chichester to Titchfield near Fareham.

He asked: “Can they actually be really effective at meeting the potential damage that’s done by dogs running amok?”

Diane Shepherd, chief executive at CDC, described how the policy had been in development for a long time and she did not think councillors had ‘any other option but to support this’.

Clare Apel, Lib Dem group leader, felt it was ‘naive’ to only review the strategy every three years. She said: “I think we should be looking at this at least annually.”

But in response Susan Taylor, cabinet member for planning services, suggested they needed to ‘give it time to bed in’.

Other councillors questioned how the sliding scale of contributions had been calculated with £337 for a one-bedroom dwelling up to £880 for a five-bedroom home or larger.

Mrs Taylor described how developers had been consulted and were ‘happy’ with the strategy.

Conservative Simon Oakley suggested that while soft measures such as persuasion and education were ‘worthy’ he tended to agree with other speakers that they may be ‘entirely ineffectual’ over such a large area.

He added: “I will bet you in three years’ time we are going to have to go down the enforcement route.”

CDC is a member of Bird Aware Solent. For more information visit http://www.birdaware.org/home

The council is also consulting on plans to create a network of dog activity areas outside the harbour with support from the National Trust and Chichester Harbour Conservancy.

Features could include dog tunnels, weaves, jumps, balance equipment and dog ponds that can be used all year round, especially in winter, to reduce the disturbance to visiting winter wading birds.

To comment visit www.chichester.gov.uk/currentconsultations