Roman snails postpone Harpenden accessway decision

Roman snail (helix pomatia) has been found in Harpenden © Dragiša Savic

Roman snail (helix pomatia) has been found in Harpenden © Dragiša Savic - Credit: © Dragiša Savic

THE sole charity in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates is claiming victory after the postponement of a decision on a proposed new access in Harpenden that would threaten protected snails.

Harpenden town council (HTC) applied to St Albans district council (SADC) for approval to carve a 3m-wide, and nearly 60m-long gravel track across Westfield recreation ground.

But right next door to that playground on former allotment land is the habitat of protected Roman snails.

That prompted an outcry from neighbouring residents who feared that not only would the scheme pave the way for a future housing site on the former allotment site but soil to be excavated for the access was to be dumped on the snails’ homes.

Among those raising objections was Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust which works to save Britain’s rarest bugs, bees, worms and other invertebrates.

SADC was to talk about the town council’s scheme on Monday at a planning development control committee meeting, but discussion was postponed to allow officers to investigate the issue further.

Alice Farr, Buglife planning manager said: “This is a great victory for the Roman snails. They’re legally protected. Protecting this population is very significant. Very often invertebrates are overlooked in the planning process. Buglife is pleased that the protection of these Roman snails is being taken seriously.”

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Buglife opposed the scheme because planning officers had recommended that approval be granted to HTC, despite not undertaking an invertebrate survey.

Alice said that the planning application had been delayed to allow wildlife surveys to be completed, with HTC asked to survey the site.

But a spokeswoman for the district council said that a survey was not the reason for withdrawing the Westfield recreation ground item from the agenda.

She said that further work needed to be done for an updated officers’ report, which “may include the need for an ecological survey.”

The spokeswoman confirmed that Roman snails were protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Chairwoman of the committee Cllr Maxine Crawley said that it was “sensible” to postpone a decision until all the information had been obtained.

She said: “No-one wants to damage protected species.”