Byers legacy looms large

CONGRATULATIONS to Friends of the Earth, whose claim that the Government acted illegally in giving the go-ahead for the carving of a giant white horse on a hill at one of the country's top wildlife sites has been supported by the European Union.

CONGRATULATIONS to Friends of the Earth, whose claim that the Government acted illegally in giving the go-ahead for the carving of a giant white horse on a hill at one of the country's top wildlife sites has been supported by the European Union.

The giant horse, currently being carved into a hill near Folkestone in Kent, looks set to be the subject of a legal action in the European Court where the Government could face huge fines and even be ordered to restore the damaged habitat.

Construction of the White Horse Millennium Landmark is already well underway at Etchinghill Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest, near Folkestone, and overlooks the entrance of the Channel Tunnel. It is of national importance for its outstanding chalk grassland plants and insects, and has also been proposed as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) because of its importance as a European wildlife site, particularly to rare orchids.

In an example of how the EU actually protects our interests, the EU has now "sent a letter of formal notice to the United Kingdom Government in connection with its failure to ensure that the requirements (European law) ... were met with regard to the proposed development."


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Who was it who gave the go-ahead? You've guessed – our old mate Stephen Byers, former Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. He rejected advice from English Nature, the Government's own wildlife watchdog, which had concluded the habitat loss would be irreplaceable. Another fine mess he's got the Government into!

ESSEX MPs are furious at the Strategic Rail Authority's decision to deny the county's commuter company First Great Eastern the opportunity to apply for the single train operating franchise out of Liverpool Street. Both Ivan Henderson (Labour, Harwich) and Eric Pickles (Conservative, Brentwood & Ongar) have lodged complaints with the SRA over its dismissive attitude to Great Eastern.

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Meanwhile, the company is defiantly carrying on business as usual. Whether it be brave or foolhardy, Great Eastern has in the past couple of weeks repainted its east London stations at Maryland and Forest Gate in First Group's corporate colours of fuschia pink and deep purple. Its new trains which will soon operate out of Clacton-on-Sea in Mr Henderson's constituency also carry the colour scheme.

It'll be all change again this time next year, when the single franchise for Greater Anglia takes over. Most passengers won't care what colour the trains are painted as long as they run on time – and that's about as likely as the people of the East of England voting `yes' in a referendum to bring in regional government.

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