Work halted at Portslade site after neighbours accuse developer of environmental vandalism

Posted On 28 Jan 2018 at 2:59 am

Work has been halted at a site in Portslade after neighbours accused the developer Crest Nicholson of environmental vandalism.

Angry residents in Mile Oak spoke out as the company cleared a green space as part of its preparations to build 125 homes.

Crest Nicholson was given planning permission to build on the site, next to Overdown Rise, by Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee last September.

They started to clear the site on Tuesday (23 January) but residents became alarmed when they saw the company’s sub-contractors at work.

Councillor Peter Atkinson, who represents North Portslade, said: “There was heavy plant on site and the works staff appeared to be pulling everything up in their path.”

He immediately contacted the council’s Planning Department to ask for the “method statement” which details how the ecology on a site like this is to be protected and is always part of a planning application.

There did not appear to be one in place so the Labour councillor then contacted the county ecologist, who advises in cases like this.

The work was subsequently stopped but not before a huge amount of shrubbery, scrubland and gorse had been destroyed. Sussex Police were also consulted.

Crest Nicholson had sent a letter to residents assuring them that the work would be carried out in a sensitive manner but this appears not have been the case.

Local residents hit out at what had happened. One, Jennie Cockburn, said: “The letter that was sent out stated that hand-held and low-impact machinery would be clearing this beautiful space, under supervision of an ecologist – nowhere to be seen.

“We have seen diggers and tree shredders on this space making lots of devastation as it goes, with total disregard of the environment and animals that inhabit that area, like foxes, badgers, newts and currently hibernating adders – a protected species.”

Another, Ian Martin, said: “Crest Nicholson have gone on site without the method statement being assessed and have decimated the site with heavy machinery, instead of the hand tools they should have used, to supposedly do an ecological report.

“There won’t be much wildlife left. It’s a possible nature crime being reported to the police.”

And Jo Hawse-Daly said: “As residents we have watched with alarm and dismay as the land behind Gorge Close has been cleared, with no apparent care or attention to habitat or wildlife.

“I understand that a certain amount of ground work is needed to prepare for an ecology survey, however, sub-contractors have chopped down trees and stripped and decimated a large area of the site and only stopped when the local councillor and planning officer intervened.”

Adam Walker said: “In response to them saying that endangered species would be moved once it’s cleared is utter rubbish.

“What can you move that’s already dead? I’m sure that many of them could have been located and moved while still in hibernation rather than them now being disturbed and potentially killed as it is unlikely the workers would be able to see them.”

Councillor Atkinson is calling for work not to recommence until an investigation has been carried out into exactly how this clearance took place.

  1. Gerald Wiley Reply

    What did the silverback, green-welly, dog-walking brigade really expect?

    When the developpers said “hand-held and low-impact machinery”, did they really expect the equivalent of “Good Life” Margoes, dressed in yellow wet weather gear, cutting bushes back with a pair of secateurs, all the time having an ecologist on hand to check there was no adders asleep under every bush?

    To me, “hand held” means powered machinery help in the hand, rather than having bulldozers clearing swathes.

    What did they then expect – the clearers to put the removed growth into little piles to make compost over the next year? Perhaps they need to move the removed wood ot be put therouhg shredders for transportaiton off site.

    These “protesters” need to “get real” and get over the fact they have lost the battle to have the houses that the city needs built on land they thought was to be kept specially for them.

    And I wonder what all the rabbits and rodents together with their blessed “foxes, badgers, newts and currently hibernating adders” think of the protesters and their dogs trapsing over the area?

    • Michelle Rauf Reply

      What an extremely ‘glib’ Comment.
      What was expected, was Crest Nicholson to abide by the terms laid out by the Council in respect to them agreeing to the development going ahead!

    • Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE Reply

      Gerald Wiley, do you REALLY not expect Crest Nicholson to obey Conditions of Consent? Well done those residents for paying attention and getting this result. Scrutinise every single Condition that is attached to this Consent and ensure you have your say if and when any of them are advertised on the Planning Register as out for public consultation. And do NOT trust the planning officers to notice everything because there are now too few of them covering too much and not all of them are sufficiently experienced either.

      LOOK for mistakes in planning applications raised to discharge Conditions and TRUST your local knowledge and ability to spot errors, including from internal consultees. Those who do nothing can expect the consequences to not be in their interests!

      Disappointing to see Crest behaving badly – they are supposed to be putting housing on the King Alfred site! And their reputation for ruthlessness now shades into something WORSE!

      • Gerald Wiley Reply

        So you don’t trust the planning officers to enforce, or the developers to obey, the Conditions of Consent?

        If so, who do you think should do this – a group of locals illegally blocking access to the site becuase they think they knoiw better?

    • Damien Reply

      I don’t think you can compare dog walkers to bulldozers Gerald! Well done residents, keep fighting. If developers want to destroy our green areas for profit then they must at least respect the rules we have. Sure we need housing but build on brownfield sites and build high-rise blocks to save space and make them more affordable for the ones in need. A lot of the ‘affordable’ homes are too expensive for the people that need them so are bought up by private landlords and rented for a premium. We don’t want to have sprawling cities with no greenery in 50 years time.

  2. Louise Hodges Reply

    That’s great news works been suspended! Crest Nicholson are a disgrace and should be ashamed of themselves. The work last week was not carried out sensitively as the letter stated. The poor wildlife. Plus on a selfish note the noise was unbearable. I live in gorse close and my garden pretty much backs onto the land they are clearing. The noise was so horrendous that even after closing all the windows & doors it was vibrating down the chimney! It makes me fear for when the build actually starts. 😔 Please Brighton & Hove council, have a heart and refuse the construction of this inconsiderate project. I totally accept there is a desperate need for new homes but this site is NOT the answer. The knock on effect to residents is going to be horrendous – flooding, loss of wildlife, traffic problems etc. The list is endless 😔

  3. Jennie Cockburn Reply

    Gerald Wiley, we accept the houses will be built, but what we don’t expect is the developer to cause unnecessary damage to protected species and to go against the council who have set rules and regulations to follow. They have broken the rules and the law on day one of the work, what will they do for the rest of the time? Maybe try living in this beautiful area then maybe you might understand.

  4. Jo Daly Reply

    I think that they expected Crest Nicholson to adhere to the out line conditions of the planning and wait for planning and the county Ecologist to APPROVE their method in writing BEFORE they started clearing the site, that is what they expected. Not for a group of unsupervised contractors to show up and mow down everything in their path without regard to wildlife or environment.
    Good for them, people need to protect the few green spaces and wildlife we have left, and while I’m aware that this site has outline planning permission, there are clear conditions set out by the council planning authority to safe guard the wildlife on the site before any work commence.
    Crest Nicholson have failed AGAIN to honour a commitment made by them…..

  5. Joanne Daly Reply

    I respectfully disagree with your opinion, all the Residents ( there are now 612 members in our community group) expect is for Crest Nicholson to honour the conditions they are bound by by the planning authority to safe guard the existing wildlife on site and wait for written approval of their method of clearance by the county ecologist BEFORE they start work at the site.

  6. Stuart Hodges Reply

    Gerald’s response is typical of those who have no knowledge of or indeed any kind of interest in to the actual issues that are the reasons why the majority of the Mile Oak Community have steadfastly opposed this build. Seriously, are you even local. If you actually take the time to do some research on the matter, you may actually start to understand why the very normal people have worked so very hard to try and oppose this half baked scheme, including gridlocking the area in peak times, overloading local services, not taking care of the drainage issues and creating more of a food risk. and yes ecology. We have repeatedly given the evidence, not only of why this scheme is in the wrong place and the local issues it will create, but also of Crest Nicholsons own distain for the area and already seemingly breaking it’s promises made at the planning meetings, hence why work has been halted already… And it’s only week 1!!

    • Gerald Wiley Reply

      Au contraire – I’m local and very interested in the issues.

      I’ve been following the actions of the nimby’s here (and for that matter at Toad’s Hole) with their desperate attempts to come up with creative reasons as to why the developments should never go ahead – exactly the way are you are doing here.

      I’m just amaized thet allowed your own houses to be built originally – with all the fears about drainage, traffic and local services.

      Please just come clean – you just want to keep the public land to yourselves so that you can maintain the values of your properties being “backing on to downland”.

      The council has listened to your protestations and decided that the building can go ahead. I’d like to see where the developpers agreed to cut dowbn bushes with “hand tools” and to not bring any “heavy plant” on site.

      For reference, what was the size of the “heavy plant” that you are complaining about?

      As far as the “promises” are concerned, I would have thought this is up to the council to police as, I undersdtand, they are the land owners and the ones that state the conditions under which the development goes ahead.

      That your “locals” want to call the police to protect a “possible nature crime” is quite amusing, considering that some of the local protesters, apparently, drove their cars to the area to cause an obstruction to the land.

  7. Laughingnun Reply

    Agreement of the building works had conditions attached- the first was to ‘relocate’ the wildlife.The very first thing that CREST NICHOLON did is to break this condition- they are not filling residents with confidence of being trustworthy.BRIGHTON & HOVE Council set the requirements so must follow up and manage the situation/prosecute .They are in a rush so they can cut back the KNOTWEED which is in the central area of the site – this will still grow & spread, causing havoc to the new housing when complete- more unhappy residents ,as it cause havoc to foundations & drains.

  8. caroll WILSON Reply

    The more I read out the clearing a d No care to this doesnt surprise me a bit they dont care one jot about the persons living near or around our beautiful area Was beautiful disgusted with our council nothing changes

  9. Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE Reply

    Look at the Conditions attached to planning consent. There is normally one about the Construction and Environment Management Plan within which there SHOULD be a method statement. Has the Planning Dept failed toeven ask for a method statement? What are the Conditions that concern the wildlife? What was identified at the Planning stage?

    The loss of staffing levels has meant rather cursory attention to detail (I am finding with other applications like Medina House and Hove Station).

    It has NEVER been more important for residents to crawl over applications, over Conditions of consent and to not trust the system to do its stuff.

    It is concerning that Crest Nicholson are one half of the partnership which was given the job of redeveloping King Alfred. This is not the first complaint I’ve seen about how they operate.

    • Gerald Wiley Reply

      Thanks for the link to the outline planning permission – good to see your anti-any development in Hove (or anywhere else you fancy) non-elected activist group is back in action rather than comments just being your own personal views.

      Your saveHOVE twitter feed at seems to show that you/saveHOVE are/is now a one-woman protest group protesting about almost everything as well as getting involved in local planning applications.

  10. N Auistin Reply

    As an interested ‘outsider’ I am very surprised that building permission was given for an area with KNOTWEED growing there. I know of a large area where all building was halted because of this plant and restrictions put in place that the land must be treated with the required chemicals for the specified number of years until all traces of KNOTWEED had been eliminated. The land would finally be checked for this plant and, if clear in every part of the area, then and only then, would permission for use be granted.

    • Fran Marshall Reply

      I can’t believe how damaging knotweed can be! What was the building where plans were halted because of the knotweed? This seems fascinating that houses are being built without proper checks.

  11. Margot goodlife Reply

    Dear Mr Riley , for a moment there it sounded as if you were an employee of CN.
    Love Margot

    • Gerald Wiley Reply

      No – not an employee of CN – just a local resident wathcing the antics of the MONIMBYs (Mile Oak Not In My Back Yard) desperately trying to stop the development by any means as the council trys to provide addtional housing in the city.

      Perhaps you are one of the Mile Oak residents that enjoys having gated access to their own private nature reserve?

      I note that Brighton & Hove News, did not include a statement from Crest Nicholson, but that The Argus has and perhaps you should read what they have to say.

      I must admit that I don’t know who to trust less – Crest Nicholson, or the MONIMBYs.

  12. Stuart Hodges Reply

    Mr Wiley,
    You clearly don’t understand or care about the many very valid issues being created in Mile Oak by this build. And if you wish to be childish by calling our community “monimbys” then go ahead, because it is not important. There are very real reasons that so many local people have opposed this. Perhaps, if you care so much about solving this housing crisis (despite there being many thousands of houses and even estates across the UK that are derelict and unused) you could volunteer your own garden for development. And when an untrustworthy builder starts breaching their permissions, blocks your access to the community, floods your house with sewage and rainwater. And if then you cannot get a doctor’s appointment then perhaps you might also have something to say about this!!

  13. Barney Reply

    I don’t know Crest Nicholson, so can’t comment on them specifically, BUT …

    It’s not unknown for developers to “jump the gun”, clearing an area ahead of time or starting fires in buildings that may be the subject of preservation orders as just two examples, reasoning that “once it’s gone, it’s gone” and that what no longer exists can’t be replaced.

    I believe something similar happened on the old Foredown hospital site, though I admit my memory may be faulty after so many years. What I do know is that certain buildings were initially supposed to remain, but I personally saw demolition work being carried out. I took photographs and contacted the council, only to be told
    it was “ok”.

    No original hospital buildings remained on site, apart from the old water tower, which meant more land available for new houses, so more money to be made.

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