Macclesfield: Vistry Homes planning enforcement for removing priority habitat hedgerow at Gaw End Lane development

By Save Danes Moss Group - Andrew Emmerson

25th Jul 2022 | Opinion

Outline of proposed Gaw End Lane. (Image - Ordinance Survey)
Outline of proposed Gaw End Lane. (Image - Ordinance Survey)

Vistry Homes has been served with a planning enforcement case for removing 160 metres of hedgerow unbelievably even before full planning permission has been given for the site.

This constitutes a contravention of Regulation 5(1) of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 and has been raised under case 22/00166E with investigations ongoing. Sadly the removed hedgerow priority habitat was spotted by the Planning Enforcement Team and an Arboricultural Officer on 3rd March 2022, the document to confirm this was only uploaded to the Cheshire East Planning Portal for application 21/0966M on 22nd July 2022 which is nearly 5 months later and only 5 days before the reserved matters for the application are due for discussion at the next Cheshire East strategic planning meeting on 27th July 2022.

Native hedgerows are deemed a priority habitat and it was clearly stated in the Outline Application that 'the Hedgerow forming the boundary with London Road (A523), is deemed 'Important' in accordance with Criterion 5(a) of the Hedgerow Regulations as an integral part of a field system pre-dating the Enclosure Act'. It was also referenced again in the reserved matters documentation. Considering the age and importance of old established habitats such as this it is stunning that a developer can act in such a cavalier manner even many months prior to the reserved matters being considered.

Sadly, the fine for this may only be a few thousand pounds on a development of 300 houses worth many millions of pounds. Cheshire East Council should hold the developer fully to account on this irresponsible degradation of our natural heritage and at least delay the reserved application until the matter has been fully resolved.

Trees near Gaw End Lane. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Macclesfield Nub News)

The Vistry Group website within its environment company policy states:

'Ensure compliance with all relevant environmental legislation as a minimum and, where practical, approved codes of practice and other requirements such as those specified by our clients.'

It is astounding that one of the first actions on this site is to directly infringe this policy.

Their sustainability strategy also states:

'By 2025 100% of our sites will complete a biodiversity action plan. We'll continue our partnerships with Hedgehog Preservation Society, the Bat Conservation Trust and the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust.'

A hedgehog curls into a ball. Please note: This image was not taken in Macclesfield and is purely for illustrative purposes only. (Image - CC 4.0 JIP Unchanged bit.ly/3b5AIiG)

Will the Hedgehog Preservation Society be aware of this removal of prime hedgehog habitat? They have been contacted for comment.

The Kings Hill housing developers also have a net zero plan, there is no mention of the impact of developing next to a carbon storing peat bog and biodiverse SSSI within the scant mitigation documentation included within the planning documentation.

It is also noticed within the Cheshire East spatial planning documentation for site LPS 17 Gaw End Lane which has been taken out of the greenbelt for this development:

'The site will be developed only where it can be demonstrated that there is no significant harm on the Danes Moss SSSI, particularly in relation to changes in water levels and quality and recreational pressures. This should include a full assessment of the direct and indirect impacts of the development on the features of special interest. Where impacts cannot be avoided, appropriate mitigation measures will be required to ensure protection of the SSSI'

A Willow Tit, which is one of the UK's fastest-declining populations of bird, is threatened by the development. (Image - © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0 Unchanged bit.ly/3xv5fNU)

'Any application would need to be supported by a full ecological appraisal. Ecological mitigation would be required to address any adverse impacts.'

Within the planning portal there is no detailed documentation showing evidence of a full and wide ranging ecological appraisal. Surveys of the following are not apparent:

  • invertebrates
  • birds
  • amphibians
  • reptiles

There is no detailed documentation listing ecological mitigation.

In addition there is no detailed documentation demonstrating there is no significant harm on the adjacent SSSI, in particular:

  • no mitigation for wildlife occurring on the SSSI
  • bird nesting boxes should not be erected as these will increase competition for the Willow Tits known to occur across Danes Moss
  • it is an area rich in Moths, of which a number are protected species, there is no detailed plan on reduction of light pollution which is known to have detrimental impacts on moth populations which will also impact bats
  • no detailed documentation on the impact of recreational use
  • no detailed documentation on how development on a third side of the SSSI will impact the ability of the wildlife populations contained within the SSSI to link to the wider environment leading to them being trapped within the boundaries of development
  • no detailed study of the ecology within the site covering a range of taxon:
  • species likely to occur include: Common Toad, Common Frog, Hare, Grass Rivulet, Lattice Heath, Small Heath, Common Lizard, Mistle Thrush, Rook, Oystercatcher, Redwing, Fieldfare, Common Starling, Curlew, Common Snipe, Reed Bunting, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull
  • there is an area of wet woodland detailed for complete removal – there is no documentation stating absence of Willow Tit
  • no detailed study (or reference to) of impacts on the water table or water quality
  • this is required to prove there will be no drying of the Danes Moss area thereby increasing emissions of CO2, this would also adversely impact the ability of the site to return to a carbon sink and would counter Cheshire East's own stated aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025 and the stated aim of restoration of peatlands within the county

In light of the increasing risk from climate change and biodiversity loss, this is an unacceptable omission from the planning process to demonstrate that the principles of planning defined by Cheshire East have been followed.

In addition there are a number of legally protected species that are likely to occur on-site due to their proximity of occurrence on the SSSI for which no recent studies have been produced and for which no mitigation has been produced. The Save Danes Moss campaign so far has found:

  • 33 Section 41 species of Principal importance
  • 15 Local (Cheshire area) Biodiversity Action Plan species
  • 8 species protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
  • 56 IUCN redlisted species, one of which is vulnerable to extinction in the UK

While most of these will not live on the Gaw End Lane site it is astounding there is at the very minimum no detailed mitigation for them to help Danes Moss. It is also very disappointing even in July 2022 while the climate crisis and biodiversity collapse are happening around, our local council will not step up to help address it.

A committee to discuss the planning application will take place later this week. Please click here for more information on the application.

This article was nubbed to Macclesfield Nub News by using the black 'Nub it' button on our homepage.

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