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Conservationists hit out over A21 dualling go-ahead

PUBLISHED: 12:53 28 June 2013 | UPDATED: 12:53 28 June 2013

The A21

The A21

Archant

Group vow to keep fighting threat to ancient woodland

A conservation group has slammed the decision by the Government to spend £92million on dualling the A21 near Tunbridge Wells.

While campaigners for the road improvements celebrated the decision, the Woodland Trust says the environmental cost to ancient woodland is too great.

Some nine hectares would be lost if the dualling between Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge goes ahead.

The road is a notorious snarl-up point where it goes from dual-carriageway to one lane.

Oliver Newham, senior Woodland Trust campaigner, said: “The cuts to the Defra budget combined with the promise of huge investment in road building is the perfect storm for the potential destruction of our wooded habitats. The Treasury’s announcement may mean the widening of the A21 is a step closer, but the Woodland Trust is determined to fight the case for the nine hectares of ancient woodland under threat, and the dozens of wildlife species it provides a home for.

“While we are very sympathetic to the needs of local road users, simply planting new trees elsewhere will not replace the unique habitats lost or mitigate for the impact on the wildlife the habitats contain.

“We all need to remember ancient woodland is rare, precious and irreplaceable. Its intrinsic value to the natural environment is something upon which no price can be levied.”

The trust said wildlife found in the woods surrounding the A21 include more than 1,000 species of fungi - some so rare they do not have common names, invertebrates such as glow worms, 10 species of ladybird, 24 species of bee and at least 13 species of butterfly.

A public inquiry into the project began in May and needs to grant approval for the project to progress and access the funding.

The next stage of the inquiry takes place on July 8 and 9 when closing statements will be read, following which the planning inspector will write a report to be seen by secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles.

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