Developers criminally damage over 300 metres of protected hedgerow
Having been informed that the hedgerow on Liverpool Road, Formby, was being illegal removed on the 29th January, I immediately informed Sefton Council, however the works continued and the first response I received was on the 7th February and Sefton Council were not quick enough to attend the site and prevent the removal of the hedge which is classed as criminal damage.
In that time over 300 metres of protected hedgerow, which is protected under the priority habitat and hedgerow regulations 1997, had been removed. Attached pictures show. I have many more pictures that show the destruction caused. It is quite clear that they did not have the permission of the council to remove this full stretch of hedgerow and anything over 20 metres has to be agreed with planning.
As the removal of the hedgerow was a criminal act, I pointed out to Sefton Council, being the legistive authority that they were responsible for persuing the developer through the courts. I have received an email that the developers excuse was
"The site manager thought that the entire stretch of hedge was to be removed in order to accommodate the raising of land adjacent to Liverpool Road. They accepted overall that they had removed more than they should have".
I have responded to say that I do not accept this explanation as professional developers working for a major house builder knew, or should have known, the implications of removing such a large length of hedgerow without planning approval.
Through negotiations with Sefton Coucil, the authority responsible for prosecuting the developers, a replacement hedge has been agreed, however, I don't belive that they will be able to replace a 100 year hedgerow like for like or this is suitable punishment for the criminal destruction of the hedgerow.
Other planning authorities, eg Harrogate, take this very seriously and prosecute the developers through the courts and the developer Perssimon Homes was fined £34,000 plus costs for illegal removal of hedgerows and breaking the laws under the Hedgerow Regulations Act 1997. This wanton destruction should have a financial consequence.
Our hedgerow was part of the mitigation scheme that made the development allowable in planning terms and it also served to screen the traffic and the effects of pollution for new and existing residents. With that in mind I would suggest that the fine in this case should be more that £34,000.
Too often developers ride roughshod over planning conditions that are in place to protect the interests of existing residents and secondly our council need to make an example and show developers that this is not acceptable and that there will be financial consequences. There will be many other developers watching to see just what they can get away with in our borough of Sefton. Below is a link to the fine given to another national developer.