DEVELOPERS have stopped ripping up hedgerows and cutting down trees at a controversial housing site following concerns raised by ‘horrified’ and ‘heartbroken’ residents.
Greenery at David Wilson Homes and Gallagher Estates development in Ashlawn Road – on fields north of the road between the water tower and Sainsburys – has been removed to create two access points to the site, where they have planning permission to build 860 homes, a primary school and two new roads.
But after complaints from residents, Rugby Borough Council (RBC) and Warwickshire County Council (WCC) sent arboricultural and ecology officers to inspect the site.
The developers have now voluntarily stopped work until RBC can determine whether their actions have breached conditions of planning permission.
A spokesman for About Turn – an umbrella group comprising campaigns against new housing developments in Rugby – described the developers’ actions as “outrageous behaviour”.
Richard Allanach added: “What is worse is that they are doing this during the nesting season. Those hedges were home to many species of birds including the red listed house sparrow.”
But a spokesperson for David Wilson Homes East Midlands said no nesting birds were found during a full survey of the hedgerows, carried out by its consultant ecologist before the hedge was removed.
The spokesperson added: “We are committed to looking after the environment. We have an ongoing partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and always try to give nature a home wherever we can.
“At our new Ashlawn Road development we will be planting new hedgerows to mitigate for losses during construction, together with creating new green spaces and habitats for wildlife. These include six new ponds, green corridors and parks and gardens.
“Overall the development will create approximately 12 hectares of new open space.”
A spokesman for Rugby Borough Council said the developers had planning permission to remove hedgerow to create the new roads into the development.
He said: “We’re now in the process of checking whether the hedgerow which has been removed complies with the conditions of the planning permission.
“We’re aware of concerns regarding the possibility of nesting birds being disturbed during the removal of the hedgerow. The developer employed the services of an ecologist prior to the hedgerow being removed to check for nesting birds and other wildlife, and we have passed the report compiled by the developer’s ecologist to the ecologist at Warwickshire County Council for inspection.
“Following discussions, the developer has voluntarily agreed to stop further work on the hedgerows until we have fully investigated the matter. An archaeological team working on behalf of the developer remains on site.”
David Wilson Homes’ and Gallagher Estates’ initial planning application was rejected by RBC in February 2016 on the grounds it would increase traffic and pollution in the area, and would not provide the infrastructure to mitigate this.
But two months later the developers launched an appeal against the decision, saying they ‘strongly disputed’ the council’s findings and arguing “residual impacts cannot be described as adverse or severe”. The appeal was upheld by the Government in July 2017.