Ground dewatering in the vicinity of the railway workings at Aristotle Lane, Oxford

Ian Salisbury made this Freedom of Information request to Natural England

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The authority would like to / has responded by postal mail to this request.

Dear Natural England,

Please provide me with copies of any environmental impact assessment made by Network Rail in your possession that refers or relates to any land within 300m of the bridleway bridge that passes over the railway lines at Aristotle Lane, Oxford.

I am particularly interested in the expected effect of the planned de-watering of the the drainage ditch in this area on the population of creeping marshwort (Apium repens) growing on the SAC Oxford Meadows, the population of great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) referred to in the Environmental Impact Assessment made by Chiltern Railways in connection with its earlier Evergreen 3 development proposal, the Trap Grounds Town Green SSSI, the culverted sections of any drain that is a likely bat roost, and any organism or place apart from those already mentioned that is a UK BAP Priority Species or Habitat. The imminent drainage work is a part of the new line-laying and track modification scheme currently being undertaken.

If there is no such impact statement please provide me with any information in your possession which provides you with confidence that the aforementioned species / habitats will not be affected by the intended drainage.

In the event that you believe any of this information is statutorily exempt information please list the exempted information and provide your reasons for the exemption(s).

Yours faithfully,

Ian Salisbury

FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Salisbury

Access to information request – Acknowledgement – Request No RFI 2441

Thank you for your request for information below, which we received on 10 April 2014. We are dealing with your request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Your request is being considered and we will send out our response within the legal deadline of 20 working days which is 13 May 2014, for any reason, we are unable to meet the deadline we will keep you fully informed of the reasons for this.

Yours sincerely

Kate Donovan
Adviser - Access to Information Unit
Customer Services Team

Natural England
Email: [Natural England request email]

www.naturalengland.org.uk

We are here to secure a healthy environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.

In an effort to reduce Natural England's carbon footprint, I will, wherever possible, avoid travelling to meetings and attend via audio, video or web conferencing.

Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard

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Ian Salisbury left an annotation ()

Telephone message left with Kate Donovan at noon on 7 May 2014 as Network Rail have pumped the drain dry. (Recent rainfall has re-filled it a little.)

Dear FOI (NE),

Just a reminder to say that it is my understanding that by law I will have your reply to my request today.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

FOI (NE), Natural England

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Salisbury

Please find below our response to your request for information considered
under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

<<Access to Information - RFI 2441.pdf>>

<<COMBINED - RFI 2441.pdf>>

Regards

Kate Donovan

Adviser – Access to Information

Legal Services

Natural England

Email: [Natural England request email]

[1]www.naturalengland.org.uk

 

We are here to secure a healthy environment for people to enjoy, where
wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded
for future generations.

 

In an effort to reduce Natural England's carbon footprint, I will,
wherever possible, avoid travelling to meetings and attend via audio,
video or web conferencing.

 

Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service
Excellence Standard

 

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Dear Ms Donovan,

Thank you for your email of 13 May 2014, and enclosures.

From the email sent by Dr Tibbetts to Morgan Sindall on 16 January 2014 it appears that the contractor was given assent only for works to the drainage ditch that lies between the Aristotle Lane footbridge and the Castle Mill Stream, which is about a mile to the south of the bridge. Please clarify whether there is any information relating to land to the north of Aristotle Lane footbridge in NE's possession within the terms of my request. If there is no such information, please confirm it by way of clarification.

Dr Tibbetts goes on to say "Any further ditch clearance work by either Network Rail or Oxford City Council will require separate assent and will need to be fully assessed through the Habitats Regulations 2010." Please clarify whether you have any information relating to any ecological survey carried out on the land that is now being drained to the north of the Aristotle Lane footbridge. Please also clarify whether NE was informed of that survey before it assented to any works in that area, or whether assent has been given without the benefit of that survey information.

Secondly, the draft Ordinary Watercourse Land Drainage Consent (number LDC/13/02) appears intent on providing permission for drainage of the Oxford Line Ditch not only between the Aristotle Lane footbridge and the Castle Mill Stream confluence but also between the Aristotle Lane footbridge and the Godstow Road Highway Bridge to the north. Please clarify whether there has been any consultation with NE over this stretch of the Oxford Line Ditch under the Habitats Regulations 2010. Please also clarify whether any of your functions have been exercised under the enactments relating to nature conservation so as to secure compliance of the current works along the length of the ditch to the north of the Aristotlte Lane footbridge with the requirements of the Habitats Directive.

Please be aware that the protected plant Apium repens (Creeping Marshwort) is known to exist naturally in only two habitats in the United Kingdom, one of which is the SAC Oxford Meadows. I understand that the plant requires wet conditions and so the current drainage works may be detrimental to its survival. Also, in the environmental investigations carried out by Chiltern Railways as part of its EverGreen3 project, I understand that Great Crested Newts were recorded in this area. Thirdly, from my own observation I believe the footbridge that crosses this ditch to the north of the Aristotle Lane footbridge in front of the entrance to the Trap Ground Allotment Gardens provides a summer roost for bats. Please clarify whether these three species should be included in any ecological survey that should have been undertaken and, if that survey has not been undertaken, please clarify that it is your duty to see that the works are halted until such time as authorised consent is given.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Salisbury

Access to information request – Acknowledgement – Request No RFI 2480

Thank you for your request for information below, which we received on 13 May 2014. We are dealing with your request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Your request is being considered and we will send out our response within the legal deadline of 20 working days which is 11 June 2014, for any reason, we are unable to meet the deadline we will keep you fully informed of the reasons for this.

Yours sincerely

Kate Donovan
Adviser - Access to Information Unit
Legal Services - Executive Office

Natural England
Email: [Natural England request email]

www.naturalengland.org.uk

We are here to secure a healthy environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.

In an effort to reduce Natural England's carbon footprint, I will, wherever possible, avoid travelling to meetings and attend via audio, video or web conferencing.

Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard

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Dear Kate Donovan,

Thank you for your reply. Concerning your reply to my original request I would respectfully suggest that if you did not have the information, then by law you should have said so promptly and certainly within the 20 working days allowed. That period has now expired. However, rather than raise the temperature I asked for clarification rather than a review.

I would therefore be grateful to have the completed information as soon as possible, for the ditch has now been drained. If the environmental impact of this drainage has not been investigated or considered, then of course it should not have been undertaken.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

Dear Natural England,

The response to my request has been delayed. It is a requirement that if information does not exist, then that fact should be stated.

This inormation should have been provided to me by 13 May 2014. I have therefore asked for clarification but may ask for a review if the necessary information is not sent to me immediately.

Yours faithfully,

Ian Salisbury

FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Salisbury

Thank you for your email. May I apologise for our misunderstanding of your original request. We made an assumption in relation to what you were asking for and it is now apparent our assumption was incorrect. In hindsight we should have asked for clarification and provided you with advice and assistance in order to ensure we fully understood the scope of your request.

I have contacted the appropriate team and requested they provide a response to your email of 13 May 2014 as soon as possible.

Please could you confirm if would like us to proceed with this as an internal review or as a new request? You have the right to have it handled in either way. Under both processes you will receive the same information but under Internal Review you will then have the right to make a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office should you remain unhappy with our response. If you choose to have it handled as a new request then you will retain the right to ask us to review what we provide should you be dissatisfied.

May I apologise again for our misunderstanding of your request.

Regards

Kate Donovan
Adviser - Access to Information
Legal Services
Natural England

Email: [email address]
www.naturalengland.org.uk
 
We are here to secure a healthy environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.
 
In an effort to reduce Natural England's carbon footprint, I will, wherever possible, avoid travelling to meetings and attend via audio, video or web conferencing.
 
Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard
 

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FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Sailsbury

Thank you for your email, I can confirm I have just sent you a reply to your email we received yesterday. Please could you confirm how you would like us to proceed with your request for information and although we will deal as quickly as possible we cannot provide immediately.

Regards
Kate Donovan
Adviser - Access to Information
Legal Services

Natural England

Email: [email address]
www.naturalengland.org.uk
 
We are here to secure a healthy environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.
 
In an effort to reduce Natural England's carbon footprint, I will, wherever possible, avoid travelling to meetings and attend via audio, video or web conferencing.
 
Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard
 

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Dear Kate Donovan,

Thank you for your emails. My request was for information concerning the land surrounding the Aristotle Lane pedestrian footbridge in Oxford. This is land that is subject to major engineering works by Network Rail including works that will result in the lowering of the local level of the water table. My concern is that the neighbouring meadow, Port Meadow, is an SSSI and, as a result of it being one of just two locations in the UK where there is a native popluation of Apium repens, it has been designated as part of an SAC.

Lowering the water table may affect the viability of Apium repens, particularly in spring as it re-establishes itself on the margins of the flooded areas after winter. Lowering the water table before summer months may shorten that period of re-establishment and affect the viability of the population.

It seems as though Natural England has assessed the project for the stretch of line to the south of the bridge, whereas the drainage is being undertaken to the north of it. It looks to me therefore that this work is being undertaken without any scrutiny by NE. Worse, it appears that NE may have approved the scheme unwittingly and may now be powerless to stop it.

Of lesser importance, though not unimportant, Chiltern Railways as part of the preparation for its recent public inquiry identified Great Crested Newts in the area, and from my own observation a pedestrian bridge a short distance to the north of the Aristotle Lane bridge appears to be in use as a summer bat roost.

That is background, and does not form part of my inquiry. But I hope it will allow you to appreciate the importance of it. All I need to be told, and should have been told by law, is that the information that I have been provided is complete. If it is, then I will know that the work being undertaken has not been scrutinised by NE and I can take the appropriate action.

As to the remainder of what I have asked for, I can see that some of it comes pretty close to asking for additional information. I would be interested to see it, but would accept that at least for some of it I cannot insist on an immediate response as I can for the completion of my original inquiry.

Needless to say, having brought the matter to NE's attention, I would expect NE to see that the unauthorised development works are stopped, but that is also perhaps more appropriate to a separate line of correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Salisbury

Thank you for your email. Further to your request for information relating to Aristotle Lane, Oxford, please could you provide me a postal address for this to be sent on a CD-ROM by Special Delivery as the information we are sending is too large to be sent by email.

Thank you
Regards

Kate Donovan
Adviser
Legal Services

Natural England
Direct Dial: 0300 060 1537
[mobile number]
Email: [email address]
www.naturalengland.org.uk
 
We are here to secure a healthy environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.
 
In an effort to reduce Natural England's carbon footprint, I will, wherever possible, avoid travelling to meetings and attend via audio, video or web conferencing.
 
Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard
 

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Kate Donovan,

This is to acknowledge safe receipt of your CD, thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Salisbury

FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Salisbury

Thank you for confirming you have received this.

Regards
Kate Donovan
Adviser - Access to Information
Legal Services

Natural England
Email: [Natural England request email]
www.naturalengland.org.uk
 
We are here to secure a healthy environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.
 
In an effort to reduce Natural England's carbon footprint, I will, wherever possible, avoid travelling to meetings and attend via audio, video or web conferencing.
 
Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard
 

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Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

Ian has sent us a copy of the documents to upload to the site.

They can be found here:

http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...

and a zip file of all the documents is here:

http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...

Ganesh - WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer