Earlier this year, having spent time and effort campaigning for toad crossing signs to be reinstated at a much-used toad crossing on a country lane a couple of miles from our village, I was delighted when Cheshire East Council agreed to put the toad crossing signs back where they belonged, as a warning to drivers to go slowly.
Toad mating routes, being hereditary, are often ancient. Although only in full use for a few weeks a year, they are vital for the survival of toads locally. People living and working nearby appreciate this, and volunteer at the toad crossing during those busy weeks, helping the animals cross safely to the mere for breeding and to come back again.
Two weeks ago, the same Cheshire East Council approved a speculative planning application for the construction of a mini-estate of new homes immediately adjacent to the toad crossing, complete with new road access.
This only reinforces my growing concern that as far as planners are concerned, our borough is for human use and abuse above all else, regardless of the other species we share it with.
Approving a new residential development at the precise point on a country lane which is also part of an ancient toad mating route beggars belief. To me, this is a clear message from Cheshire East that human profit super-cedes wildlife habitat every time. It is a message of astonishing hubris.
Cheshire East, in common with every borough in every country the world over, consists of humans living alongside multiple other species, all of whom have the right to exist. Some developments (but not many) are approved with meaningful conditions attached that go some way towards protecting non-human animals and their habitats; this, sadly, is not one of those developments.
Perhaps the local authorities won’t be happy until they’ve concreted over the whole of the borough, with no toads, butterflies, owls, hares or other creatures enriching it with their presence. A lot of people would of course make a lot of money if we built all over the green belt, but they and the rest of us would be leading much diminished lives as a consequence.
Yes, people need somewhere to live – but so does every other species. Our green spaces, home to flora and fauna, should not be seen as commodities that can be repeatedly put through the rendering machines of capitalism for human profit.
Until we learn to balance the needs of humans with those of the non-human environment, with planning processes and laws that bear these concerns uppermost in mind, we are heading towards not only environmental but also social and personal disaster.
For more information about toad crossings, or to set up a toad patrol in your area, visit the Froglife website.