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Road work across Westfield recreation ground slows to a snail's pace
Residents have been left shell shocked after plans to build an access road in Harpenden have been held up due to a population of Roman snails.
Buglife, an organisation dedicated to the conservation of all invertebrates, claim victory as proposals to construct a 3m wide and 60m long access track across Westfield recreation ground have now been slowed down to carry out wildlife surveys.
Since the plans were put in by Harpenden Town Council, residents raised concerns because the former allotment site is home to Roman snails which are protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
In January Buglife objected to the plans on the basis it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take a Roman snail. St Albans District Council has now postponed the planning application to enable further discussions.
Ellisa Baird, who is a resident of Willoughby Road and a member of Westfield Action group, said she is strongly opposed to plans in order to protect the areas green space and wildlife.
The 47-year-old said: "I am really surprised the plans have been halted and hopefully the relevant surveys will be carried out to slow it down to the snail’s hatch.
"Council’s should not be able to go around willy nilly destroying species habitats. This is not just about our nature, it is also important to protect our green space.
"The council should not be able to run roughshod over residents and I am really grateful to Buglife for backing our campaign."
Mrs Baird added she was concerned the plans to build the access track for maintenance vehicles could lead to housing developments on the former allotment site.
She said: "This is such a huge road development for the simple transportation of maintenance vehicles. As residents we fear what next and we believe this could lead to a major housing development."
Roman snails, which have ground colour shells, are the largest native species measuring about 50 by 50mm.
In 2009 the snails, which can live longer than eight years, were also placed in the IUCN red list of threatened and endangered species in January 2009.
Buglife, is the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of rare invertebrates and are committed to protecting species including bees, beetles, spiders and snails.
Alice Farr, Buglife planning manager said: "This is a great victory for the Roman snails.
"Sometimes I think the importance of snails is often overlooked in the planning process and we are pleased to see that the protection of the Roman snails is being taken seriously.
"This was something local residents cared about it. I think it is important a survey is carried out to look at the impact building a road would have on the snail’s habitat."
At a planning development control committee meeting, the district council postponed plans and said further discussions were needed to survey the location and size of the Roman snail population.
Claire Wainwright, spokesman from the district council said the holdup was not because of the Roman snails. She said: "The decision has been delayed because further work needs to be undertaken to update the officer’s report.
"This may result in the need for an ecological survey to be carried out."