Buglife considers West Tilbury Marshes legal challenge

Tuesday 26th February 2019

Buglife is seeking legal advice on potential challenges to the appalling announcement that the Secretary of State has granted permission for the Tilbury 2 project which will see the Port of Tilbury expand and destroy, West Tilbury Marshes, one of the UK’s best brownfields for invertebrates. The former Tilbury Power Station site supports at least 1,397 species of invertebrate, among them 159 species of conservation importance and 31 which are rare or threatened, including the Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum), Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), Sea aster mining bee (Colletes halophilus) and Five-banded weevil-wasp (Cerceris quinquefasciata).

This outstanding assemblage and the unique habitats which support it are now expected to be lost for ever. This threatens the long-term future of the nationally important invertebrate fauna of the Thames Gateway, which supports brownfields long-known to offer unique opportunities for rare and threatened species. The scale of expected loss motivated 75,000 people to sign a Buglife led petition to save the wildlife on the site. This public outcry hasn’t stopped the project being given the go ahead.

However, this huge loss could have been avoided, had Natural England followed their own assessment that the site “could be considered to be of sufficient quality to meet the designation requirements of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)”. Natural England went as far as to state publicly that” Natural England will be adding the site to our designations’ pipeline, consistent with the requirements of our designations’ strategy”. Despite this initial show of force to protect an irreplaceable and valuable site, Natural England made no further effort to progress the site’s designation. Had the site been made a SSSI, it would have moved the goalposts for the Planning Inspectorate entirely.

In the aftermath of last week’s report on global insect declines yet another nationally important brownfield site for bugs is being destroyed due to inappropriate and thoughtless development of wildlife sites” said Jamie Robins, Buglife’s Projects Manager. “Buglife is disappointed that once again, a site of SSSI quality is going to be lost while Natural England stood by without acting to protect it, like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Unless Natural England step up and fulfil their duty to protect our best wildlife sites, we are going to continue to lose our precious invertebrate species.”

This decision follows the recent media focus on global invertebrate declines as a result of wide ranging human activity, including habitat loss and fragmentation. With a background of continual losses of nationally important brownfields, as revealed by Buglife’s ‘State of Brownfields in the Thames Gateway’ report, Buglife wants to see more action to protect the sites supporting some of our rarest and most threatened invertebrate species.