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MP blasts "greed and recklessness" of developer in hedgerow row

Formby's MP has blasted the "greed and recklessness" of a housing developer after a century-old hedgerow was removed without permission, and a memorial garden destroyed, on Liverpool Road in the town.

Bill Esterson said it was indefensible that the hedgerow had been removed unlawfully, and asked Sefton Council to investigate whether criminal proceedings were appropriate. A daffodil-filled "garden of hope", which was planted by residents around 20 years ago, was also dug up by construction workers on the site.

Hedgerows are protected under The Hedgerows Regulations 1997. It is illegal to remove a protected hedgerow and a fine of up to £5,000 can be imposed. The garden of hope had no formal protection, but the Sefton Central MP has asked the developer to replant it.

The developer, Barratt and David Wilson Homes, has permission to build 317 homes on the site bordered by Liverpool Road and Formby bypass. Development began last month, with an entrance to the site created off Liverpool Road. The hedgerow ran along the length of Liverpool Road. The developer had permission to remove some of the hedgerow, so that an entrance to the site could be built, but more was removed than they had permission for.

The MP said: "The inconsiderate behaviour of the developer is astounding. I have to assume that they fully understand hedgerow protections and that they know what they did was unlawful. It is indefensible.

"I have written to the chief executive of the developers to ask him to explain how this was allowed to happen. I have asked Sefton Council to explore every option with regard to fines and legal action.

"There was a lot of opposition to the development, so to tear up the hedgerow as well has caused massive resentment towards the developers. It is nothing less than environmental vandalism.

"The developer must replant the hedgerow without delay."

Hedgerows are protected and cannot be removed if they are more than 20m long, more than 30 years old, and if they meet certain location criteria, such as being on common land, land used for agriculture or forestry, or for keeping horses.

The Garden of Hope was planted in around 2000 as a memorial to Formby residents who had died of cancer. The daffodils were chosen because it is the flower of the Marie Curie charity. It is thought that although the previous landowner had given permission for the garden to be built, no planning permission had been required for the garden and therefore the garden was not protected when the land was sold to the developer.

After objections from local residents, the MP has asked the developer to replant the garden, either in the same place or nearby.

In a letter to Barratt and David Wilson Homes chief executive David Thomas, the MP wrote: "A constituent contacted me last week to say that a ‘Garden of Hope’ that they had planted many years ago, bordering the site, had been removed. Sefton Council have informed me that there was no official protection in place for the daffodil garden. However the constituent was very distressed that it had been removed as it was planted as a memorial. I would be grateful if you would commit to the garden being replanted either in the same position or nearby."

Regarding the hedgerow, the MP wrote: "Sefton Council has informed me that protected hedgerow has been unlawfully removed from alongside Liverpool Road in Formby, where Barratt and David Wilson Homes has permission to build 317 homes. Barratt and David Wilson Homes had permission to remove some of the hedgerow, but not as much as has been removed. Sefton Council have informed me that they are exploring their options with regard to taking legal action. I would be grateful if you could explain how this incident occurred and how your company is going to redress the situation."

The MP said: "The developer has a duty of care to the people of Formby and the environment. Developers must not ride roughshod over rules and regulations for their own benefit and to the detriment of our town. I support the strongest possible action being taken against the developer."

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