Dormice threaten to scupper superstore plans

August 9, 2010

The battle of the supermarkets in the nearby town of Wadebridge, north Cornwall has developed an unexpected twist in the tale.

The possible presence of dormice, a European Protected Species, could put a stop to one of the three proposed out-of-town superstores.

Morrison’s wants to build its supermarket on the site of Wadebridge Town Football Club. It’s offering to provide a replacement ground, practice pitches, changing rooms, floodlights and car park in open countryside at Bodieve.

Sainsbury’s has applied to develop a superstore next to the council offices, while Tesco wants to expand its store on the west side of the town.

Unfortunately for Morrison’s, Cornwall Council planning officer Gavin Smith is recommending that permission for the football club plan be refused.

Interestingly, the fact that no dormice have been seen on the proposed new football club site is not the issue. Cornwall Wildlife Trust has recorded them nearby and it’s illegal to disturb this shy and delightful animal.

As a BBC blog post on the supermarket issue points out: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Significantly, Cornwall Council and the wildlife trust are partners in the Camel Valley Dormouse Project which has been calling for people to become “dormouse detectives” in the Wadebridge area. It’s encouraging local residents to hunt for nibbled hazelnut shells that have tell-tale toothmarks and a neat round hole on one side.

Dormouse picture: courtesy of David Chapman Wildlife Photography

Update: A decision on the planning application has been deferred to await the results of the dormice survey and to investigate “serious” concerns about noise from the football ground.

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