Wednesday 14 October 2020

Sainsbury's expansion versus hedgehog conservation

Sainsbury's, in Guildford, Surrey, UK, want to expand their facilities because they need to expand their online presence having discovered that Britain is moving towards an online purchasing world. Online purchasing has been spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic as we probably all realise by now. 

Sainsbury's Guildford surrounded by hedgehogs where there are hedgehogs. Map: Google Maps.

In order to accommodate a vastly increased online delivery service, Sainsbury's have placed an application with the local authority to demolish 67 trees in a designated green space next to its superstore. The place where these trees live is important for hedgehog conservation. And as the UK hedgehog population has fallen from 1.5 million in 1995 to 500,000 in 2018 there is added pressure on conservationist to protect this much love species of wild animal.

One of those people is Brian May, the Queen guitarist. He has accused Sainsbury's of chasing profits at the expense of wildlife conservation. Their plan includes tripling their capacity for online orders and groceries. Brian May said that the site was home to threatened hedgehogs, bats, bird species and insects. He argues that Sainsbury's have made enough profits during the pandemic and to approve such a planning application would have a devastating impact upon wildlife in the area. The supermarket chain is prosperous, surely they can find an alternative place to expand in to? That is part of Brian May's submission. Also, when Sainsbury's built the superstore at Guildford their planning application contained a mitigating argument that they would leave the woodland secure. Presumably they knocked down some of the woodland in order to build the superstore. This historical aspect of the application must go against them in their fresh application.

Andy Clapham, chairman of the local Burpham Community Association said that the area was one of the few locally where hedgehogs are often seen. And the land helps to shield houses from the superstore and its car park. Sainsbury's promised to replace the 67 trees with 300 plants and install stacked timber for wildlife to hibernate and supply bird-nesting and roosting boxes. They have commissioned a comprehensive ecological appraisal and taken steps to mitigate the wildlife damage that would be incurred if their application were approved. They argue that the application benefits the local community.

Comment: I have to comment. If you take this planning application in context of a world issue with respect to deforestation and the destruction of wildlife habitat by businesses across the planet, you have to be against Sainsbury's' application. As Brian May asks, why can't they find somewhere else? Okay, it will be less convenient but businesses will have to start accepting inconvenience in the interests of wildlife conservation and creating a better world for people to live in. There's going to be mass inconvenience by businesses going forward for the next hundred years if we are to curb global warming and take genuine steps and show genuine commitment towards the conservation of wild species. It is time that businesses took a far more ethical and sustainable approach when focusing on profits. Profits should not be at the expense of the natural world. Businesses should work with the natural world because there is money to be made from that attitude.

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