Anger over loss of habitats after pond drained and trees felled
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
Residents in Needham Market are furious after developers began to fell trees and drain a pond in a secluded area.
However, G & K Groundworks Limited said it was just trying to manage the land near School Street effectively after being given permission to remove the trees last year.
In reports submitted to Mid Suffolk District Council on behalf of the developers, it was noted that many of the trees were in poor condition and needed to be felled.
However, residents have complained about the disruption the work has caused to the environment and the loss of habitats.
“They are still pumping out the pond, which seems ridiculous,” said Sharri McGarry, from the Stowmarket Eco Futures group.
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“They say they need access but they have access and moorhen nests are going to suffer.
“They’ve taken down a whole hedgerow when there was no need to.
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“The residents have seen birds sitting there confused, they have seen a definite change in the wildlife.”
Among these changes was a young bat found clinging to a property having been hibernating.
Ms McGarry said that she was concerned at the lack of protection for the area and the planning laws that allowed the work to go ahead.
"We are still trying to do things but it doesn’t seem like there are any regulations to help us," said Ms McGarry.
Russel Ford - principal director at Smart Planning, which represents G & K - told BBC Radio Suffolk: "I think the way it's been put is almost as if it is a cynical act of wilful destruction.
"This has been a thoughtful process of site discovery and assessment.
"It's in a conservation area it's highly protected. Any works to a tree that is unauthorised is a criminal offence.
Mr Ford said that the company had found unlawful water outfalls were causing the pond.
"I appreciate that does create a habitat, the pumping we have done is only to achieve safe working levels because of the tree works,” said Mr Ford.
He said that trees being felled on the site were “dead, dying or dangerous or will be within a relatively short period of time”.
Mr Ford said that information about the site had been circulated to relevant authorities as well as on local Facebook pages before they were taken down.
"We have been inspected and examined who are all happy with what they are doing,” said Mr Ford.
"We are responsible persons trying to manage the land in an effective way.”
Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill has also raised concerns about the work in a letter to Mid Suffolk District Council.
“I am not against development in order to build homes for people to lie in our wonderful part of Suffolk,” said Ms Churchill.
“I am, however, concerned at an apparent lack of adequate consideration and care being given to the environment trees and ecology in our area as part of the MSDC planning process.”
Ms Churchill asked the council to look again at the case.
A spokesman for Mid Suffolk District Council said: “We are aware of Jo Churchill’s letter and will be contacting her separately with a comprehensive response to each point raised, hopefully reassuring her, as well as residents in the area, that we are keen to do everything possible to protect the district’s environment and wildlife.
"Unfortunately, we do not always have ability to intervene.
“The site owners had to give notice and agree a tree removal plan prior to removing trees as they are within the Needham Conservation Area and a plan was agreed for the removal of some – but not all – of the trees.
"However as there are no wider development or permissions for this site at this point we cannot simply step in to stop operations, such as the draining of the pond, pending ecological assessments.
"We can only refer the possibility of wildlife crime to the police and it is up to them to determine whether a crime has been committed.
“The removal of trees is never something we take lightly – as demonstrated during a recent application for new homes in Elmswell where, at the request of our planning committee, officers worked with Suffolk Highways to alter plans for the application’s accompanying infrastructure to allow for the retention of an historic oak tree in the village.”