Even before any actual construction work has begun at Ruddington’s new ‘Wilbur Chase’ development, the housing company who’ll be building it is being accused of breaching Rushcliffe Borough Council‘s planning conditions.
Outline approval for 175 homes was controversially granted on appeal at the former Green Belt site north of Asher Lane just two years’ ago – despite significant local opposition including an initial planning refusal by the Borough Council. Following the Government Planning Inspector’s nod, Avant Homes then won the tender from landowner Space Foods Limited to carry out the work. Its detailed plans were approved by Councillors last year – when they added this new estate to Ruddington’s Local Plan Part Two housing allocation along with three other Green Belt sites.
Even though the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic halted construction work, due to start two months’ ago, this was not before a sizeable section of mature hedgerow alongside Asher Lane had been removed (photos above and below by Martin Breakwell) despite the approved access route into the site actually being via Musters Road. Nearby residents have also expressed dismay at discovering a large old Ash Tree on the eastern edge, which was due to be retained, is now facing the axe.
Martin Breakwell told us: “In March local residents were furious when they ripped out a section of hedge on Asher Lane during the bird nesting season. It turns out that this work was carried out without the relevant permissions in place.” Martin cites as evidence that RBC’s Principal Planning Officer Emily Dodd was unable to provide him with a copy of Avant’s ecologist’s report to cover the hedge removal in March. He says this was because this requested report had still not been received by RBC at the start of May – almost two months after the section of hedge was removed.
An Avant Homes spokesperson responded: “We can confirm that a section of hedging along Asher Lane was removed in early March. These works were entirely supervised by an appropriately qualified ecologist and with the prior notification of Rushcliffe Borough Council. Work was inspected before and after the removal ensuring that no wildlife species were present.”
However, Mel Holme comments: “The removal of the hedgerow is a disgrace, especially when they have not been able to do anything since. The birds could have nested and the fledging flown by the time work starts.”
Speaking about residents’ latest concerns about old tree, Martin says: “As part of their recent Arboricultural Statement (obtained from Rushcliffe Borough Council’s Planning website) Avant Homes are now planning to take down a 17 metre tall ash tree. According to their own report this is one of the 5 best trees on the site and it has a ‘High’ amenity value. Once it’s gone this mature tree can’t be replaced, so we’re hoping Avant Homes will see sense and change their proposals – so that this tree is kept for future generations.”
Avant Homes replied: “We have consulted with a specialist tree surgeon with regards to a large Ash tree on the perimeter of the development site. The tree has been examined and found to have signs of decay and fungal attack and it has therefore been recommended for removal.”
However, Martin remains unconvinced: “Does this mean that their Arboricultural Statement is incorrect? If the tree has an estimated remaining life of 20 to 40 years then surely it would be worthwhile keeping it and looking after its welfare? Their layout should properly have taken into account that the tree is there and still has significant future amenity value.”
Village resident Adam Wilkinson agrees: “All 17 of the Government Planning Inspectors’ planning conditions need to be addressed before any work starts. And that includes ripping a hedge out that they’ve no right to use as a means of access from. Avant Homes will be held to account. Rushcliffe take note please!”
RUDDINGTON.info understands another inspection of the ash tree has now been carried out by RBC’s Design and Landscape Officer Tom Pettit – who is now seeking justification from the applicant as to why it cannot be retained within the site layout.
One of Ruddington’s Borough Council representatives, Cllr Jennifer Walker, says: “Cllr Gaunt and I are still communicating with local residents and RBC officers to ensure that the developers stay true to their commitments both to the village and with regards to the environment. There is still much that we need to remain vigilant over – including the monitoring of site traffic through our village which looks likely to be commencing this summer.” She adds: “This development is, and remains, a contentious issue amongst residents and we will do our best to keep Avant Homes to the specific conditions that have been set out in planning with the help of fellow residents.”
In terms of when building work will start, An Avant Homes spokesperson reveals: “We are planning a phased return to construction on some of our developments later this month in line with the latest government advice. We hope to commence works at Wilbur Chase in the summer, however, construction will only start when we are satisfied that all the necessary measures are in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues, suppliers, residents and visitors.”
You can read much more about the history of this controversially approved site >>HERE<<.