CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn a remnant of the ancient Forest of Bere into a pet cemetery were refused last night in a dramatic U-turn.
Councillors at Havant Borough Council voted unanimously not to allow Johnston’s Coppice, in Purbrook Way, Purbrook, to be turned into a natural burial site for pets.
Earlier in the day, council officers had been recommending the plans were approved as they did not believe it would harm protected dormice and bat populations.
But the recommendation was changed to refusal yesterday after both the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and the county ecologist objected to the bid on the grounds of the impact on protected species.
As reported, Terena Plowright, an environmentalist from Petersfield, wanted to turn part of the semi-natural ancient woodland into a pet cemetery in order to pay for the upkeep of the woods.
Local ecologist Nik Knight said the woods were a tranquil place full of ferns, fungi and wild flowers.
He said: ‘It pains me to think this ground cover will be seriously disturbed if these pet burials go ahead.’
Emsworth councillor Richard Galloway, making a deputation to the committee, said: ‘Havant Borough Council has a duty to protect our ancient heritage both legally and in my view morally.’
Emsworth councillor Brendan Gibb-Gray, speaking on behalf of the wildlife trust, said: ‘We are losing lots of greenfield sites. We only have a few of these very small, very special, intrinsically-valuable places left.’
Cllr Paul Buckley, who sits on the committee, stressed the woodland had been managed by humans in the past and had to be managed to survive.
Cllr John Smith said: ‘I believe we should protect sites like this.’
Ms Plowright had been due set out her case, but arrived after the decision because her car had a flat tyre on the way to the meeting.
An emotional Ms Plowright told The News: ‘I am shocked actually. This could be the end of this coppice as timber is already being stolen from it regularly.
‘This whole thing was designed to protect the woodland. I find it unbelievable they are ignoring woodland and leaving it to rot.
‘I am going to appeal and find a way of protecting this woodland.’
Ray Cobbett, from Havant Friends of the Earth, was pleased with the vote.
He said: ‘This is a landmark decision. It puts a firm stake in the ground that the council will defend its green interests.’