Developer refuses to replace hedges and makes housing plans for land south Folders Lane, Burgess Hill

Fields south of Folders Lane in Burgess Hill SUS-151103-095111001
Fields south of Folders Lane in Burgess Hill SUS-151103-095111001

A developer has appealed against an official order to replant hedges it removed without permission, and revealed it intends to build homes on the land.

Thakeham Homes bought fields south of Folders Lane in Burgess Hill last year and in March the Middy reported that it had removed hedgerows, believed to be ancient woodland, during the Christmas holiday period in what it described as a ‘routine site clearance’.

Mid Sussex District Council ordered it to stop and asked the company to replace the hedges within fourteen days, or face a formal Hedgerow Replacement Notice. It then had to issue the formal notice.

Thakeham Homes has now appealed the order and in its appeal documents to the inspectorate it has stated that it plans to submit a planning application for a housing development on the land, which will require the removal of ‘some boundary features’.

A spokesperson for the developer said: “Thakeham do not agree with the assessment made by the Council and therefore have appealed the decision to the Planning Inspectorate. We appealed this order on the 15th April, and as is standard practice have been given the opportunity to submit additional evidence by the Planning Inspectorate in response to that submitted by the Council.”

In its appeal Thakeham Homes argued that it did not require permission for the removal under ‘The Hedgerows Regulations 1997’ for six reasons.

Its document stated the reasons as follows: “What was on site prior to clearance works does not fall within the ordinary meaning of a ‘hedgerow’.

“[The removed hedgerows]mark the boundary of the curtilage of a dwelling house and as such are not covered by the Regulations.

“The hedgerows in this case were in such a bad and poorly managed state that to tidy them up required the work that was carried out.

“There is no evidence of harm to amenity and wildlife. The Council has provided no evidence to support the allegation of harm on the face of the Notice.

“The Appellant reserves its right to respond to any such evidence provided by the Council.

“The time for compliance specified on the Notice – 28 days from date of service – is not sufficient to enable the planting as set out in the Notice and is unreasonable”.

It added that it is in the process of preparing a planning application which will require the removal of ‘some of the boundary features’.

It said: “This application is due to be submitted in late summer and to require the replanting of these boundaries pending determination of that application is an overly onerous requirement.”

SOFLAG (South of Folders Lane Action Group) has officially objected to all six points and argued the removal did require prior permission.

Jerry Batte, chairman of the group, pointed out that the developer was more likely to get permission for its plans if there were no hedgerows in place and if it had to replant this would ‘stump’ its plans.

He said he would be surprised if the appeal was won as he believed the hedgerows in question were protected by the aforementioned regulations as they were important, at least 30 years old and of high value to wildlife and the landscape.

“Prior to this the fields were full of a wide range of wildlife including owls, bats and deer, as well as numerous species of birds that nested in their hedgerows,” he said.

Burgess Hill Town Council met on Tuesday night and councillors agreed they would back the Mid Sussex District Council and SOFLAG.