WILDLIFE groups and residents have expressed dismay at an Adur council decision to permit early removal of reptiles from the proposed site of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club’s training ground in Lancing.
The £23 million pound project, which has been criticised over traffic and environmental impact concerns at the Mash Barn Lane site, is not due to go before a planning committee until Monday, October 1.
But a move this week to allow ecologists employed by the football club to begin removing reptiles including grass snakes and slow worms, has been branded by residents as ignoring concerns over animals’ safety and pre-empting a final decision on the issue.
Considerable fears have been raised by Sussex Wildlife Trust and Sussex Amphibian and Reptile Group that there may not be enough time before the end of the year to meet the advised timetable of 60 days of suitable weather conditions to carry out the reptile capture this year, as they are shortly due to go into winter hibernation.
Resident Kay Stone, of Daniel Close, who keeps horses on an adjoining fields to proposed site, revealed there were a number of residents extremely concerned.
She said: “The club has not even got planning permission for this and they are being allowed by the council to remove reptiles, so this just seems like a done deal.
“There are a lot of people who have been quite ill from their concern over this. With car parking for more than 300 cars there’s going to be a lot of light and noise pollution. It is going to be horrendous.
“We have been along to the meetings on this and the club says it wants to work with the community, but we are just been seen as NIMBYS.”
Councillor Andy Barnes, of Lancing Parish Council said while he was “broadly in favour of the application” and welcomed the sporting benefits it would bring, he shared concerns over the timing of removing the reptiles.
Amanda Solomon, of Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “We feel strongly that no development or preparation work on this site should be done before planning permission has been approved.
“Anything which is done at this time will undoubtedly have an impact on the biodiversity of the site. Should the application be rejected, then the impact will have been unnecessary and potentially irreversible.”
Sharing her views, Barry Kemp, of Sussex, Amphibians and Reptile Group, believed it could be “risky” to remove reptiles just before they go into hibernation.
He said: “The best practice for this is to collect them when they’re not hibernating – trying to find them with machines when they are into their hibernation is likely to harm them and might not be able to recover.”
Peter Latham, chief executive of Worthing Borough Council, responded: “In order for Adur District Council to keep its options open over the possible development of Monks Farm, it has agreed prior to the planning application being considered in early October that the reptiles currently inhabiting the area are removed to a safe haven.
“The removal will be overseen by an ecologist.
“The removal of reptiles in no prejudices the determination of the planning application. Should the development not go ahead then the reptiles will be returned in the spring.
“We would like to reassure residents that every effort is made to protect this natural environment.”
A Brighton and Hove Football Club spokesperson said its work on the site was not linked to its application.
He said: “Planning permission has already been granted for sports pitches and changing facilities including the access road on the site.
“This permission allows work to commence at any time.
“Adur District Council has issued a licence to the club to carry out the work on their behalf, and the relocation is being managed by a very skilled and experienced ecologist.
“However to give extra reassurance that the work will be conducted responsibly, the club is funding an independent monitoring ecologist to ensure relocation is carried out correctly.”