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Controversy over building plot on protected wildlife site

PUBLISHED: 19:00 09 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:12 10 September 2020

The land situated east of Cats Lane in Great Cornard near Sudbury. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

The land situated east of Cats Lane in Great Cornard near Sudbury. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

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Construction of a new housing development in Suffolk has been halted after it emerged it would be endangering protected species.

Conservationist George Millins has been campaigning for wildlife on the site to be protected for the last four years. Picture: GEMMA JARVISConservationist George Millins has been campaigning for wildlife on the site to be protected for the last four years. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

A patch of land at Cats Lane in Great Cornard near Sudbury is a designated County Wildlife Site (CWS) housing protected species of slow worm and common lizards.

Plans for a 45-bed residential home were originally submitted in 2016 with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) recommending a reptile survey should be undertaken and a subsequent translocation of the reptile population carried out.

But the original developers pulled out and a new application was submitted by Bilaman Ltd from Braintree in Essex for nine new properties consisting of three houses and six bungalows which was granted full permission in 2018.

The conditions from the initial application were not carried over and Bilaman Ltd began work on the site in July unaware that a new survey should have been carried out and the wildlife relocated.

Housing plans for the Cats Lane site at Great Cornard near Sudbury. Picture: BABERGH DISTRICT COUNCIL/MOORFIELD DESIGN LTDHousing plans for the Cats Lane site at Great Cornard near Sudbury. Picture: BABERGH DISTRICT COUNCIL/MOORFIELD DESIGN LTD

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However, building works on the site have now ceased after members of the public protested and contacted the local authorities to complain.

A spokesperson for Babergh District Council (BDC) said: “As soon as concerns were raised, our planning enforcement team investigated, putting all further work on site on hold to ensure the protection of the local wildlife.

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“We continue to work with the developer and with Suffolk Constabulary - who are responsible for enforcing wildlife protection legislation - to address concerns raised by the local community.

“Following a site visit by an ecologist last month to review conditions and provide an ecology mitigation strategy, we have continued to monitor developments – including ongoing site inspections in consultation with local conservationist and wildlife volunteers which have so far allowed 11 slow worms and three common lizards to be relocated.

“Fencing has been erected and will be extended around the site to stop reptiles re-entering and ground vegetation is to be reduced, making it easier to spot and rehome others still on the site.

“No development works will take place until the ecology mitigation is completed and a further report submitted to the council for review and approval.

“We will continue to monitor the development in the meantime and welcome steps taken by the developer, as well as the involvement of the local community and volunteers in protecting the local wildlife.”

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Conservationist George Millins, who has been campaigning for wildlife on the site to be protected for the last four years, said: “This site gained its CWS status because of the large reptile population present, the reptile presence demanded reptile mitigation be included in the planning conditions submitted to the developer.

“Apparently, based on the original conditions a new planning consent was issued but despite being a CWS the re-issued conditions did not include reptile mitigation measures.

Mr Millins said that confirmation regarding a new ecology review has “taken a huge worry off my mind” and said; “I’m very happy with the planned mitigation measures.”

Bilaman Ltd declined to comment on the situation.


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