MP Jo Churchill raises concerns over Mid Suffolk District Council's planning process after environmental issues highlighted in Needham Market, Thurston and Stowmarket
An MP has raised concerns with a council over an ‘apparent lack of adequate consideration and care’ for the environment and ecology as part of its planning process.
Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, wrote to Mid Suffolk District Council last week following concerns from residents in Needham Market over felled trees and a drained pond in School Street.
In response, a Mid Suffolk District Council spokesperson said the site owners had given notice and agreed a tree removal plan which meant removing some, but not all of the trees.
They added that as there was no wider development or permissions for the site the council could not ‘simply step in to stop operations, such as the draining of the pond, pending ecological assessments’.
The Environment Agency is responsible for the pond, but the spokesperson said the council would support the agency and the police with any enforcement action they wished to take over any alleged instances of wildlife crime.
Concerns over the welfare of great crested newts supposedly resting in the pond were raised with Suffolk Police, however a spokesperson said checks with various agencies, including Suffolk Wildlife Trust, found there were ‘no ecological reports of newts being present’ or ‘legal restrictions preventing the site being drained – the purpose for this was for housing developers to allow the cutting of some trees’.
In the letter, Mrs Churchill also raised concerns over the felling of historic oak trees in Thurston, as part of the Persimmon development, and walnut trees from Stowmarket’s Walnut Tree Walk with ‘neither warning nor consultation’.
“I would also like to know what conditions apply to the planning process in order that the developer enhances not degrades our natural environment,” she said.
A Mid Suffolk District Council spokesperson said: "We are fully committed to sustainable development – ensuring that Government housing targets can be met whilst also protecting our rural districts.
"We recognise the important role biodiversity plays in the planning process and are currently recruiting an in-house ecologist – supporting our ongoing ambition to enhance the natural environment by exploring biodiversity opportunities with planning applicants.
"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.
"You may also be aware of our ongoing efforts to protect the district’s wildlife, working alongside Ipswich Borough Council and East Suffolk Council, on strategic habitat sites mitigation.
"We have also frequently sought planning conditions including, but not limited to, Ecological Appraisals, the provision of nest and bat boxes, connectivity for hedgehogs, and skylark mitigation.
"Hopefully this goes some way to showing that – where we can make a difference – we will."