Anger at work at slow worm site

WILDLIFE experts and campaigners have reacted with fury after machinery was used to clear scrub at a site where endangered slow worms thrive.Earlier this year councillors turned down a scheme to build almost 30 homes on the two-acre site off Dovehouse Road, in Haverhill, and last month an appeal against the St Edmundsbury Borough Council decision was thrown out.

WILDLIFE experts and campaigners have reacted with fury after machinery was used to clear scrub at a site where endangered slow worms thrive.

Earlier this year councillors turned down a scheme to build almost 30 homes on the two-acre site off Dovehouse Road, in Haverhill, and last month an appeal against the St Edmundsbury Borough Council decision was thrown out.

So resident Stuart Denham, who fought to have the development plan thrown out, said he had been astonished to find a digger clearing scrub on the site and immediately called in the police.

“In this case, police stopped proceedings fairly promptly, but a swathe has been cut through the site,” he added.


You may also want to watch:


“We think that there may have been slow worms in the area where the diggers were operating. Clearly action must be taken to conserve this site.

“I'm very angry, especially after the appeal was thrown out. This is a very beautiful site - one of the few in Haverhill.”

Most Read

Suffolk Wildlife Trust was stunned when it learned machinery had been working at the site despite the planning decisions.

Dr Simone Bullion, the trust's planning officer, said: “Such is the plight of many wildlife species that they must be given the protection of the law if they are not to become scarcer or extinct.”

She added surveys had established the presence of the reptile, which is protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act from killing or injury.

“The dense scrub is especially important for breeding and roosting birds and the areas of grassland are valuable for slow worms, small mammals and invertebrates,” said Dr Bullion.

“The importance of the site in terms of its biodiversity and value to the community in this urban context cannot be underestimated.

“The trust has made suggestions that the retention of this site as an urban green-space may represent an excellent opportunity to promote active community involvement.”

Martin Few, of developers HC Moss (Builders) Ltd, confirmed contractors working for his firm had been sent into the site with machinery to “clear scrub” and had been stopped after police arrived at the scene.

But he stressed: “This site, which is a derelict orchard, is overgrown with brambles and other vegetation.

“There is protected woodland and I went in to clean up that area. I was using small machinery to clear the scrub and brambles.

“The experts on the site said the machines might harm or kill the slow worms hibernating underground, so we stopped and I will now send in men with bush cutters and chainsaws to remove the undergrowth.”

Mr Few said he doubted there were any slow worms on the site and added he would make a further application to the borough council to develop the site, but this time with fewer homes.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said officers had attended the site on Wednesday.

He added: “We received calls from a number of people, including the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, informing us that builders had moved onto the site. We attended the scene and work stopped.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter