23 August 2002

Kent CPOs challenged

COMPULSORY purchase orders will be challenged by Kent farmers fighting the purchase of land by shipping giant P&O.

The company believes land at Cliffe and Cooling Marshes could be turned into mudflats to compensate for wildlife habitats lost by building a new Thames port in Essex.

A European directive obliges companies to make ecological improvements if they destroy other landscapes.

But the farmers want to investigate how much habitat would be lost by building the new container terminal. They believe this could then be compared with the Cliffe and Cooling Marshes to see if land P&O intends to buy for ecological improvements is proportionate. &#42

Shaun Leavey, NFU south-east regional director, said farmers affected planned to lodge an objection to their CPOs which were served last month. The union would seek a meeting with the ministers responsible for granting the CPOs to persuade them to withdraw them, he added.

Grazier Edward Hanks, who stands to lose up to 202ha (500 acres) of rented grassland, said it would have devastating effect on his business. "We dont want to lose the land. And to lose to set up new mudflats would be terrible."

David Long said he stood to lose 80ha (200 acres) of arable land, part of which was already a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an Environmentally Sensitive Area.

P&O sad the site had been included in its plans only a precautionary basis and it may not be used.