Planning application rejected after developers accused of vandalism
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
A planning application for 110 homes in Denbigh was rejected after councillors accused a developer of making threats and vandalising a field by ripping out hedgerows.
Denbighshire County Council’s planning committee met this morning to discuss Castle Green Homes’ application to build on land adjacent to Ysgol Pendref on Gwaenynog Road.
But Castle Green Homes, formerly Macbryde, based in St Asaph, were accused of illegally removing hedgerow from the council-owned land with one councillor even calling for prosecution. Later, at the meeting’s conclusion, Cllr Glen Swingler even asked for enforcement action to ban workmen from entering the site.
But officers advised councillors in ‘late papers’ the hedgerow removed didn’t fall within the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 as an ‘important hedgerow’ and was not worthy of retention notice. The additional notes added ‘The works undertaken to the hedge did not require consent from the Local Planning Authority’.
The meeting began with Castle Green Homes’ representative Stuart Andrew asking councillors to give the homes the go-head or face an appeal, together with financial repercussions if the council lost.
Cllr Gwyneth Kensler said Mr Andrew’s words were a threat, calling for the council to prosecute the developer for allegedly removing the hedgerow before planning consent was given.
“I would like to register my unhappiness at the perceived threats made by Stuart Andrew on behalf of the developers, if we went to appeal, etcetera, etcetera… I perceive that as a threat,” she said.
“I would like to know what steps can be taken to prosecute the vandalism that has been done already, regarding this hedge. We have been sent photographic evidence about the historic hedge. It’s unfortunate.”
Cllr Peter Scott – who had taken part in a site visit where councillors were confronted by protestors – also claimed the developers had ripped the hedge out without planning permission.
“The first thing I saw was the hedge that had been removed already, which I thought was a bit silly because we haven’t even got to planning yet, but the hedge had gone,” he said.
Cllr Scott also complained protestors had labelled councillors ‘boneheads’, insinuating council corruption.
“There was one unsavoury incident (at the site visit). There was a group of protestors, and as I was walking back to my car, one said to another, so I could overhear, ‘you can’t talk to these people. They are all boneheads, and they are only doing it for back-handers’.”
“I was very disappointed that one member of the public thought I, or any other members of the planning committee, were boneheads and only do it for back-handers’.”
Cllr Mark Young was also at the site visit and said, “Thanks to the people who protested who were a credit to the community with their passion, apart from one person. They were passionate and professional, which is more than can be said for the developers and workers who turned up to rip the hedge out before planning today.”
Cllr Glen Swingler then quoted an ecological report from the developer Castle Green Homes, stating ‘species-rich hedgerow’ had the potential to qualify as important under wildlife regulations. Cllr Swingler added: “Effectively, it (the hedgerow) has already been removed before it’s even got to planning.”
Cllr Swingler asked if there was any way the developer could be barred from entering the land in future. The chairman said the matter would be discussed behind closed doors after the public meeting.
Councillors voted 16-0 with one abstention in favour of refusing the application, which had been minded for approval, citing loss of agricultural land, an over-intensification of development, highway safety and climate change as the reasons.
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