Call to object to Church Street development
Friends of Speckled Wood are opposed to a planning application to build houses in Church Street on the border of Speckled Wood, and have called on supporters to lodge objections. Nick Terdre reports.
The application, HS/DS/17/00194, is for five houses to be built on open land bordering Speckled Wood on the west side of Church Street, an unadopted road running between Victoria Avenue and Clifton Road in Upper Ore Valley.
Outline permission for development was granted to the Homes and Communities Agency in 2014, though the land has now changed hands – the applicant in the current case is a private development company, Forte Bailey. The current application concerns ‘reserved matters,’ meaning it must conform to the conditions laid down in the outline permission.
The presence of badgers in the area was acknowledged in the outline permission, which includes a condition that no works should start “until measure[s] to prevent badgers being trapped in open excavations and/or pipes and culverts are…approved in writing by the local planning authority.”
The Friends of Speckled Wood (FoSW) object to the proposed development on a number of grounds. They say that there is an underlying badger sett “which it would be unlawful to interfere with” and that the council “has only the right to maintain the area for public recreational use which makes the proposal illegal.”
They also say that relevant documents have gone missing and question the ownership of the site – Martin Newbold, chairman of the Friends of Speckled Wood Management Trust & Charity, told HOT they were pursuing this matter with various authorities, including the Land Registry, the Ministry of Justice and the courts.
Development or no?
They further claim that the application marks the beginning of the development of Speckled Wood and question Cllr Peter Chowney’s assurances during last year’s local elections that the wood had been saved from development.
“His mandate last year was clear stating he was saving Speckled Wood,” they say. “Why is he then not exercising his veto and stopping this when his election manifesto was clear when he said he had saved Speckled Wood?”
Cllr Chowney told HOT he had no powers to prevent the land being built on – it is designated for housing development, and already has outline planning permission. “As an executive member of the council, I’m not allowed to get involved in regulatory matters such as development control,” he said.
He denied that this was the start of development in Speckled Wood. “The Church Street site was never part of the Speckled Wood protected space,” he said. “[Speckled Wood] still has protected status in our local plan.”
FoSW has launched an “urgent appeal” for more objections to the application to be submitted. By 12 April some 36 objections were listed on the planning department’s website. The consultation period lasts until 10 May but the group says all objections should be in by 5 May. As an alternative to supporters writing their own letter, they offer a standard form of words.
Ore Community Land Trust, which recently organised a clear-up of rubbish in Speckled Wood, says it is also opposed to the planning application. “It’s a real shame that when the rest of the wood was saved, the inspector didn’t include this bit as the development will enclose the wood on this side,” chairman Tony Polain told HOT.
“Not only does it reduce access to the wood and lowers its profile, it also restricts the movement of the wildlife in the wood and threatens the badger setts on this plot…and for the sake of five houses! It should never be allowed to happen.”
He suggested that objections should be individually written and focus on such matters as the adverse effect on the residential amenity of neighbours (houses in Greville Road overlook the site) due to factors such as noise, disturbance and the loss of existing views; the visual impact of the development, with woodland changing to housing; and the negative impact on the wildlife in the wood.
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