Vole in one

The Wildlife Gardener has already put on record her disdain for the game of golf – or at least for some of its adherents. The Ranger has some sympathy with this view. Whilst it’s certainly true that some golf courses provide a positive enhancement to biodiversity and wildlife conservation; it can also be claimed that some of the most regrettable abuses heaped upon our environment are committed in the name of the sport. Recently, a Welsh court turned the tables on a developer who’d committed one such misdemeanour.

Water vole © Isle of Wight Council

The BBC reports today the case of Kenneth Strelley, 36, the proprietor of the Gateway Country Club, in Bynea, Carmarthenshire; a charming little establishment located between a sewage works and an A-road. Strelley had planning consent to extend a nine-hole golf course on a five-acre plot at his club, and as a part of this to import waste materials to build up the land. This site, bordering the WWT’s National Wetlands Centre for Wales, is next to some very significant water vole habitat, and Strelley’s own planning application said:

The numerous records of water voles from the area… are particularly significant due to the rarity of this species which has undergone dramatic population reductions throughout the UK. The water vole’s habitat is protected under the [Wildlife and Countryside Act] 1981, (Schedule 5)

But despite this on 2 May 2008, visitors found the watercourses and reed beds blocked with imported material following earth works. At Llanelli magistrates’ court, Strelley pleaded guilty to one charge under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of damaging or destroying a habitat for water voles. He was fined

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