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The cleared site at Strangers Way

Strangers Way bungalow plan thrown out by Tendring District Council

Plans to build five bungalows in a Brightlingsea back garden on land that was cleared of mature trees ahead of planning permission have been rejected unanimously by Tendring District Council's (TDC) planning committee.

Claims by the developer – Wivenhoe-based Park-Mark – that by including bird and bat boxes the biodiversity on the Strangers Way site off Church Road would be improved were roundly criticised by councillors because no investigations had been made before the site was cleared.

The absence of biodiversity gain was just one of the reasons councillors at the meeting on October 26 gave for refusal. Others included the site's access road being too long and narrow, increased noise and light pollution and the reduction in privacy for the "host property" – the house already on the site which is currently being extended.

The plans had been recommended for refusal by Brightlingsea Town Council (BTC) at a meeting in March and 'called in' by councillors Mick Barry and Graham Steady – meaning that the application had to be discussed by the planning committee, rather than decided upon by planning officers under delegated powers. Planning officers had recommended that the development should be approved.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Barry said that the site had been a source of "public comment and community concern" when the trees – none of which were covered by protection orders – were cut down in 2020. "It quickly became evident that the destructive clearing was being carried out before any application for planning permission and before proper arboricultural or ecological assessments were even thought of," he told the committee.

"In fact," he added, "assessments and and application were submitted to the town council planning committee some six months later. Very much an 'act first and ask questions later' approach."

Cllr Barry said that the developer's ecological report – which said that there were no trees suitable for listed birds or bats or habitat for mammals such as dormice – was one of the worst he had ever read. "There was no identifiable habitat for these species because it had all been chopped down!"

Planning committee member Andy Baker agreed. "How can a net gain for biodiversity by measured on a site that has been stripped of all its natural woodland and everything else," he said. "The harm has already been done. There can't be a net gain because we can't measure it against anything."

Strangers 2

The site as it was before the trees were felled in 2020

Committee members had visited the site on the day of their meeting. Committee member Peter Harris said his "jaw dropped" when he saw pictures of the site as it was before the trees were removed. "That absolutely shocks me," he added.

Cllr Baker said that the Essex Wildlife Trust was "very, very critical of the ecological report" and pointed out that the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the British Naturalists' Association also objected. Forty-three objections and 13 letters of support were logged.

Speaking for the developer, Amy Hambling said that because a similar development of bungalows in an adjacent garden – Homefield – had been approved nearby in 2017, "the principle of backland development in this area has been accepted". She also pointed out that some woodland bordering the site was no longer designated as "ancient", removing hurdles in the way of development.

However, Brightlingsea resident Paula Webb, who spoke at the meeting, said that similar developments now would be against local plans. She also said that the access on to Church Road – with a blind bend to one side – would be dangerous to traffic when cars stopped to turn right in to the site, adding that cars leaving and entering could pose a danger to Colne School pupils walking to the nearby playing fields .

strangers 3

The width of the proposed access road was also criticised

Planning committee member Jeff Bray said the access to the development would be too narrow – at one point just 3.7m wide and not enough for two cars to pass – while it was also noted that there was nowhere for delivery vehicles to park or turn round.

• The documents relating to the application can be seen on Tendring District Council's website here.

 

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