Ed Sheeran asks experts to see if newts are likely to halt plans for his new chapel

The great crested newt is struggling to find suitable habitats in many parts of Suffolk Picture: KAR

The great crested newt is struggling to find suitable habitats in many parts of Suffolk Picture: KARL CHARTERS - Credit: Archant

Superstar singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has commissioned a special study to see if there are protected Great Crested Newts close to where he wants to build a chapel on his Suffolk estate.

File photo dated 26/05/18 of Ed Sheeran, as it has been announced that the singer was the most playe

File photo dated 26/05/18 of Ed Sheeran, as it has been announced that the singer was the most played artist on UK radio, TV and in public in 2017 - and also had the most played track with Shape of You. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday June 6, 2018. Sheeran dominated music licensing company PPL's annual chart, which tallies up each play an artist receives from broadcasters and in public places. See PA story SHOWBIZ Sheeran. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire - Credit: PA

People living near the site have raised concerns that the area has been a habitat for the newts in the past and are worried that any currently in the area could be disturbed if the project goes ahead.

The newts have been in steep decline across Europe since the 1940s and in Britain are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act with it being an offence to destroy their breeding sites and habitat.

Speculation has been rife about where Ed who grew up in Framlingham, might choose to tie the knot since he announced his engagement to long-term girlfriend Cherry Seaborn in January – and it has been suggested he wants to build the chapel to host his own ultra-private wedding.

The chapel plan has received a mixed reaction with a number of objections, including from the local parish council.

Answering criticisms of the venture, Paul Smith, director at Apex Planning Consultants, acting on behalf of Ed, said the planning team were not aware of the historical presence of Great Crested Newts (GCN) nearby and certainly believe that none exist in the pond close to the application site.

He said: “However, the applicant has responded promptly to this matter and has also commissioned an appropriate survey that will identify the presence of GCN or otherwise, propose mitigation measures as appropriate and recommend measures to enhance biodiversity. It is envisaged the latter may include bat boxes, swift nesting boxes, native planting and hibernaculum.”

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Planning papers say the chapel proposed would be a traditional round tower building – a style found in parts of Suffolk and Norfolk – and be for allow the applicant to be “free, safe and secure in the practice of one’s religious observance and the celebration of family life”.

Objectors claim it is against policy, would be in open countryside and urbanise the grounds, harming the character of the area and be clearly seen.

Mr Smith said the strength of feeling among some residents was acknowledged and respected but he and his colleagues were encouraged by the letters of support that counter the objections and believe permission should be granted.

Of the opposition, he said: “We also respectfully disagree with the accuracy and relevance of many of the arguments they make. We maintain that the proposal

accords with national planning guidance within the NPPF and those planning policies within the development plan that are relevant.

“This is an unusual proposal therefore one cannot expect the development plan to have a specific policy related to private chapels. However, it is correct other policies exist that are relevant,

and these seek proposals with high quality architecture that contribute to the character and appearance of an area, without causing a significant adverse effect to the natural landscape or

ecology. We have demonstrated how the proposal meets these requirements and explained the purpose of the private chapel.

“We have also acknowledged the need for an updated ecological appraisal and the applicant has already commissioned one, which should be available to the (district) council soon. We are confident this will demonstrate the development will not adversely affect protected species and can provide for enhancements to biodiversity.”