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Britain's 'Monet' Water Garden could loose its Water!

INTERNATIONALLY IMPORTANT WATER LILY GARDENS UNDER THREAT

DORSET COUNTY COUNCIL'S Head of Planning is recommending 'APPROVAL' to build a bypass to run alongside these tranquil Water Gardens, some 11 metres from the boundary. NOISE, VISUAL INTRUSION, LIGHT POLLUTION and AIR QUALITY will have a huge impact on the Gardens, and there is a REAL THREAT TO THE SUPPLY OF GROUNDWATER that feeds the ponds and lakes there.

The Gardens are situated just outside Weymouth at Chickerell on the World Heritage Coast, and are at present surrounded by green fields and woodland. They offer, amongst other things, tranquillity, beauty, and an Internationally important collection of water lilies. A Site of Nature Conservation Interest (S.N.C.I) due to its important native aquatic plants; it also supports a population of great crested newts-a European protected species. The site has been run as the family business since 1959 and for the past 20 years Jonathan and Angela Bennett have devoted themselves to the gardens which now attract over 20,000 visitors each year and are their livelihood.

Representations have been sent to the Head of Planning from Southwest tourism Chief Executive Malcolm Bell, The National Council for the Conservation of Plants & Gardens (N.C.C.P.G) and Dorset Wildlife Trust, all expressing concerns that insufficient consideration has been given to the affect upon the gardens of the proposed road. These concerns have not been addressed. Questions Bennetts have been asking the Planning Officers since December 2002 have not been answered!

The Bennetts instructed solicitors Bircham Dyson & Bell and Marcus Hodges Environment Ltd were employed to consider the position and prepare a Hydrological Report. This confirms the Bennetts fears that there is a real threat to the supply of groundwater to the Gardens and that the complex hydrology of the area has not been properly studied and understood for the purpose of the Environmental Statement. Solicitor Mark Challis said he could not believe that Dorset County Council would put such an important local tourist attraction at risk. It is not acceptable for DCC simply to proceed regardless, on a basis of a disputed contention that there will be no adverse affects upon the springs that feed the gardens when there is specialist advice to the contrary.

It was requested that the road could be moved a very modest distance away from the Gardens boundary, which would allow for more effective mitigation measures. Dorset Wildlife Trust also stated in their representation of October 2003 that 'moving part of the road should be given serious consideration as it would move it further from the Great Crested Newt population here and allow for additional native tree planting to provide an adequate screen. The Trust also reminded the Planning Officer of the possible badger sett on the boundary, which was highlighted in December 2002, but that no survey had yet been carried out.

At the Planning Committee's request, they had a site visit to the Gardens in March. They shared the Bennetts concerns with regards to the risk of loosing groundwater and to the nearness of the planned road. They could appreciate that the visual intrusion into the skyline of the gardens by high-sided vehicles and lampposts would have a detrimental impact and detract from the amenity value of the gardens and that insufficient space would be provided for screening of trees.
The main reasons, it seems, for the Council not moving the road at this stage, are not environmental ones, but by moving the road at this stage would be TOO EXPENSIVE!
The Council's plans as they stand at present could, DESTROY EVERYTHING that the Bennetts have worked for over 20 years, hopefully the planning committee will not approve the road unless the Bennetts representations are met.

The Council meets on 7 November


Contact Numbers;

Southwest tourism, Malcolm Bell, 01392 353201
NCCPG, Rosamund Johnson, 01483 211465
Dorset Wildlife Trust, Sarah Williams, 01305 264260


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