Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Gosport to Fareham railway bus link appeal dismissed

The disused railway line between Fareham and Gosport
Image caption Campaigners argue that the line has become a haven for badgers and bats

An appeal against a decision to allow a rapid bus route to be built on a disused railway line in Hampshire has been thrown out by the Court of Appeal.

Work on the £20m Gosport to Fareham route was halted in December after a campaigner won the right to appeal.

The route was approved by county council planners last year but resident Vivienne Morge argued it would have a devastating impact on wildlife.

After losing in the Court of Appeal she vowed to take it to the Supreme Court.

She had claimed that the Bus Rapid Transit scheme would harm badger setts and the habitat of protected bat species that had found a safe haven in the vegetation on the abandoned railway.

Mrs Morge, of Wych Lane, Gosport, said the plan violated the EC Habitat Directive and domestic bat protection laws.

Lord Justice Ward began his ruling: "This is a case about bats and badgers, Beeching and bus-ways.

"In 1969 Lord Beeching caused the closure of the 128-year-old railway line between Fareham and Gosport in Hampshire.

"Since then it has become overgrown with trees, shrubs and other vegetation. Bats and badgers have moved in."

New badger setts

He said the track was now needed to cut congestion on the roads by creating the bus service and a cycle lane with access roads.

"Of importance in this appeal is the fact that several species of European protected bats and nationally protected badgers live and forage in this area," he added.

"There is concern for them because it will be necessary to cut a swathe approximately eight to nine metres wide through this vegetation to allow for the new hard surfacing."

But the ruling of the court was that the planners had taken into account the EC Habitats Directive and had made provision to protect any bats.

Badgers would not be significantly affected because of measures to move and build new setts.

Hampshire County Council has said it had the backing of 70% from residents during a period of consultation.

The project must be finished by spring 2011 to qualify for government funding.

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