Protestors campaigning against the building of the Queensway Gateway road in St Leonards dug up bluebells on Saturday (April 2), saying they were taking them away for safe keeping.
The Combe Haven Defenders said they carried out the act of ‘civil disobedience’ on the route of the controversial scheme so as to ensure the plants could not be destroyed.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to intentionally uproot any wild plant.
The bluebells were in the Hollington Valley local wildlife site, which has been earmarked as the site of the Queensway Gateway road and associated business park.
The application for the £15m, 600m road was first passed in February, 2015, then quashed the following June following a legal challenge by Gabriel Carlyle.
Permission was once again granted last December by Hastings Borough Council, despite more than 800 objections, after the traffic and air pollution figures had been revised, with applicant SeaChange Sussex claiming the levels of air pollution were now within legal limits.
But the proposed road is now the subject of a further legal process, with Mr Carlyle, who brought both challenges, hoping the planning permission will again be revoked.
Emily Johns, spokesman for Combe Haven Defenders, said: “We dug up some of the bluebells in Hollington Valley in order to protect a tiny bit of this local wildlife site, which has been totally devastated by SeaChange Sussex at the behest of the council.
“Once the valley has been properly protected, and is safe from the threat of being covered in concrete, we will return the bluebells.
“The council is supposed to protect green spaces and biodiversity, but instead it has chosen to put a road on top of one of the most precious wildlife sites in the town.
“Since the council has failed in its duty of protection, we as citizens must step in and protect these precious plants ourselves.”
A council spokesman said: “The council cannot condone any action that contravenes the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
“We will pass any information it receives of criminal activity under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to Sussex Police.”
A SeaChange spokesman said: “The protestors’ latest actions were on land owned by Hastings Borough Council and haven’t affected our work in any way.
“The vast majority of local people are keen to see the Queensway Gateway road – which has received planning consent - delivered as soon as possible, as they recognise it will deliver great benefits for the community.”
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