Developer who cleared railway allotment site told he must still relocate protected slow worms – and could be breaking the law
A developer who wants to squeeze four homes onto old railway allotments has been told that he must still move slow worms thought to live on the site – and warned he could be breaking the law by clearing it.
— Clare Fiona (@clarefiona) February 10, 2017
Brighton Housing Developments, owned by Swiss-based John and Nicola Panteli-Blackburn, bought the site to the rear of the Open House pub in Springfield Road late last year.
It came with planning permission for a terrace of four houses – but that runs out today, with the developer stuck between not being able to start official development because of the slow worms, and the planning permission expiring unless he does.
Just before Christmas, the developer applied to get a condition to relocate the reptiles removed on the basis that a wildlife survey had found no slow worms.
This year, the site has been aggressively cleared, and the developer’s agents say this has been done on the assumption that no reptiles are living there.
But the county ecologist pointed out that the survey had been done at the wrong time of year when slow worms would have been hard to spot and may even be hibernating.
And the council has now rejected the attempt to clear the condition and says the relocation exercise must still take place – and warns that clearance of the site could be a criminal offence.
A letter to Brighton Housing Development’s agents Parker Dann from planning officer Sonia Gillam said: “It cannot be confidently stated that reptiles are absent from the site, and it is considered that clearance of the site without appropriate mitigation carries the risk of an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended.
“As such, it is considered that the [condition] should not be amended and that a translocation exercise should still be carried out, in line with best practice, prior to any development or site clearance taking place, with a contribution towards maintenance of the receptor site being provided.
“All surveys were undertaken outside optimal months. The current survey (Lizard Landscape 2016) was not carried out in accordance with best practice. Surveys were undertaken over a compressed period of 8 days between 27th October and 3rd November, i.e. at the end of and beyond the recognised active period for reptiles.
“Even if the suitability of the site for reptiles has declined, the site is contiguous with habitat that is suitable for reptiles and from which the presence of reptiles has been confirmed by local residents.”
One neighbour, Sylvia Peckham, has written to the council to state that slow worms are still living on land she leases right next to the site, and in her garden, along with other wildlife.
She also expressed concerns that the workmen on the site had told her they were intending on ripping up tree roots, which could kill hibernating slow worms.
A spokesman for Brighton Housing Development’s agents Parker Dann said they did not wish to comment.
Meanwhile, a petition calling on the council to save the slow worms has now been signed by almost 650 people.