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Anger after 60m hedge cut down in Stowmarket during nesting season without agreed checks

A housing developer has apologised after cutting down a hedgerow without the agreed checks.

Hopkins Homes offered the apology after concerns were raised by residents in Stowmarket that 60 metres of hedgerow had been cut down during nesting season.

Hopkins Homes is currently building 300 homes on land close to the Finborough Road junction with Onehouse Road in Stowmarket, where the hedge was removed.

Clive and Glenis Balaam at the site where the hedgerow has been cut down. Picture by Mark Westley
Clive and Glenis Balaam at the site where the hedgerow has been cut down. Picture by Mark Westley

The developers do have permission to cut down the hedge, which will be replaced with others, but it was a planning condition by Mid Suffolk District Council that they bring in an ecologist for written confirmation that checks would be carried out and no birds would be harmed.

In the event, Hopkins said the inspection was instead carried out by Waveney Tree Services, who cut down the hedge last week.

In an email to Mid Suffolk District Council planners and the Stow Eco Futures group, who raised the concerns, Hopkins Homes said: “We have to apologise on this occasion that the exact wording of the condition has not been relayed and Waveney did the checks rather than an ecologist.

"Future commissioning of such works will clearly identify approved documents, surveys and recommendations and specific wording of conditions that need to be adhered to.

"Please be assured we take our responsibilities very seriously and would not be undertaking these works without the appropriate checks; it is unfortunate an ecologist was not requested to be present, for which we can only apologise again."

Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, recently wrote to Mid Suffolk District Council following concerns from residents in Needham Market over felled trees and a drained pond and what she called an ‘apparent lack of adequate consideration and care’ for the environment and ecology.

A petition has also been started by residents calling for the Government to prohibit removal or destruction of any wildlife and habitat from private land without a full ecological survey, and closing a loophole where a planning application is required before authorities check for existing wildlife.

Mid Suffolk District Council planning enforcement, said of the hedge removal: “Whilst on this occasion the wording of the condition has not been strictly followed, we are satisfied that appropriate ecology checks were made prior to the approved works.

"Given the apology and assurances that Hopkins will in future ensure any works are carried out strictly in accordance with the applicable planning conditions, no further action is expedient at this time given checks were made before the works commenced.”

Sharri McGarry, of Stow Eco Futures, said: "This is a warning to us all that we must remain vigilant about what is in happening in our environment and that nature is being cared for and protected correctly."

A spokesman for Hopkins Homes said: "The hedgerow was removed by specialists and observed by representatives from the local authority to make sure the necessary checks for nesting birds were completed.

"The council accepted our apology for this technical oversight, and were satisfied the work was completed appropriately.

"We continue to work closely with them on all other areas of the development."

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