Newts could thwart West Ashling plan

The presence of a protected newt population could stand in the way of a gypsy family’s plans to live on land in West Ashling.

The Great Crested Newt has populated Pond Farm, in Newells Lane for a number of years, which is why the site was made a Site of Nature Conservation Importance.

But their numbers could be at risk if Cornelius Sullivan wins his appeal to keep a mobile home on the site for three years, Chichester District Council said at a planning inquiry on Tuesday, April 5.

Mr Sullivan, a gyspy, has appealed against all three refused planning applications to keep a mobile home on the land, which he bought in 2006, and has withdrawn his appeals to two of them just before they were to be decided – the third appeal is the subject of this inquiry.

Opening its case against Mr Sullivan, Chichester District Council’s principle solicitor Robert Williams said there had been a number of sightings of the newt in the area, with the most recent count standing at 14.

He said the onus was on the appellant to disprove the presence of newts on the site, which had not been done, and that a survey undertaken on behalf of Mr Sullivan had been carried out in just one day and at the wrong time of year.

The original application was made in August 2010, and was refused in October last year because it lies within the Emsworth to Chichester strategic gap, it is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance and the development would increase traffic using a public bridleway.

Mr Williams said the council did not believe Mr Sullivan fulfilled the criteria to be recognised as a gypsy under government policy, but added: “The council readily accepts he is a gypsy in ethnicity.”

Giving evidence at the inquiry chartered planner for Chichester District Council, Shona Archer, said the site could be re-colonised by newts if it went back to its original state.

A report by the Sussex Biodiversity Centre in 2006 found that there were 19 GCN on the site.

A decision will be made by the planning inspector, Christopher Anstey in the coming weeks.