A New Year, but sadly the same old story – developers have trashed another Greenfield site in Ovingdean.
The latest site in the Deans to suffer is known locally as Badgers Walk, which is a 3 hectare hilltop strip of land bordered by Ovingdean Rd and the properties on Wanderdown Rd, Wanderdown Way and the Vale. It is a designated SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Importance) and one of the sites identified in the Urban Fringe Report to the Council (site 41) for potential housing. (While I do not support the landowner’s view, I have subsequently leant that he disputes the Council’s opinion on the SNCI staus – see attached letters).
On 21 December, the developer started clearing the land. The clearance has involved the cutting down of trees, burning the timber and tearing up the tree roots and other plants and brushwood. As well as being a SNCI, the land is rich in wild life including badgers and has many trees protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs). (Again, while I do not support the landowner’s view, I have subsequently leant that he disputes the TPO orders that the Council believes to be in place – see attached letters).
The owner of the land does not yet have planning permission for any development. The clearing of the land seems to be purely for the purpose of destroying the SNCI, possibly with a view to making it easier to get planning permission for housing development in the future.
Local residents (including Ovingdean Residents and Preservation Society) have been actively attempting to prevent the destruction, liaising with appropriate Council officers, the local MP, the Police and the RSPCA. Following a Council visit, the developer was told to stop all further works until the New Year – though much of the damage may already have been done.
After Xmas, the developer continued to clear the land, and despite daily visits from the local police (and on occasion the wildlife officer and the RSPCA) who insisted the work should stop, the work continued. Eventually the developer started a bonfire using petrol (on adjoining land believed to be a neighbour’s property!) to destroy the evidence of the destruction and possibly to drive out the badgers.
It seems probable that the actions of the developer are a pre-emptive strike prior to putting in planning permission (apparently for 9 properties, while the UFR suggested only 5).
Developers/land owners of the Urban Fringe sites seem to think the Urban Fringe Report is a green light to put up as many buildings as they wish, now that the principle of building on the sites has been established. And they are likely to try to force the hand of the Council to allow even more properties on each site than the UFR suggested.
Local residents feel powerless – they have not been consulted about this vandalism to their local environment. They join the growing list of concerned residents across the Deans. First it was Meadow Vale, then Falmer Avenue in Saltdean, Longhill Close in Ovingdean – and now Badgers Walk. This is just the beginning.
As I warned in previous blogs, the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is a developers charter and it threatens the Greenfield sites around Brighton & Hove. The insistence of the Government’s planning inspector that thousands more houses are built on such sites around the city is madness. Only the opposition of local people will stop it. I support such action.