Necessary works: how a county council justified the destruction of 17,000 rare orchids

A council claims the ‘devastating’ destruction of thousands orchids was the unfortunate consequence of a drainage works project, but the local wildlife NGO says the affair was bungled. Adam Branson reports.

In an event described by the local wildlife trust as “devastating and upsetting”, last month it emerged that contractors working for Kent County Council had destroyed 17,000 orchids on a protected roadside nature reserve. The revelation was greeted with ire from environmentalists and prompted coverage in national newspapers and local media.

In a blog for charity Plantlife, for instance, botanical specialist Dr Trevor Dines expressed “horror” at the council’s decision to clear the verge at the Bluebell Hill Roadside Nature Reserve, which he said was home to 9,000 pyramidal orchids and nearly 8,000 common spotted orchids, as well as man orchids, bee orchids and a wide range of other special chalk downland flowers.

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