Can the Urnfield construction legally start?

Work started in the last week of March at the Urnfield site, beginning with tree felling and clearance of scrub. This was despite the plans submitted by Tormead stating that trees would not be cut down during nesting season, ie. March onwards.

And according to the Arboricultural report signed off as part of one of the pre commencement conditions, tree protection fencing was supposed to be erected before construction begins all along the boundary here, to protect the woodland bordering Merrow Downs. Can you see it?? Neither can we.

Then two site offices arrived, complete with guy in high vis, and a digger. The ground was levelled and some hard core laid for the offices. Still, this could be “preparatory works” that might, just might, be allowed under Permitted Development Rights. Oh, except that you don’t need PDR if you have full planning permission to go ahead.

But if you check the GBC planning portal, pre commencement condition 4, which sets out the Landscape and Ecological Management Plan for the site (the LEMP) appears as still outstanding, ie. it has not been “discharged” (approved by the council). This has always been at the heart of concerns about the project plans because it sets out mitigations for trees, scrub and all of the wildlife that live on and use the Urnfield. In particular there has been much discussion about the (in)adequacies of the plans to prevent harm to badgers, a protected species. In fact, more wildlife cameras, presumably from the developer’s new ecologists, appeared this week near the badger setts, further suggesting that there is a way to go to get to a plan that the council can sign off.

A slew of residents registered complaints with the Enforcement team at GBC in the last fortnight. This team is separate from the Planners and will assess whether development can legally go ahead or not, given the permissions. The Enforcement team now have an open investigation into the construction that has taken place. Which by Wednesday this week was significant….

….and reflected in a triumphant email newsletter from the Tormead Head to parents announcing that all the pre commencement conditions had now been discharged and construction had begun at the Urnfield. Confirmation then, if any were needed, that these are not preparatory works but the start of construction.

So what is the story from the Planning Department?

Over the last two weeks residents have repeatedly asked a simple, single question;

three councillors have asked the same question of officers;

the Enforcement Team are asking this question of their Planning colleagues:

  • Has pre commencement condition 4 (LEMP) been discharged or not?

We know it sometimes takes a while to update the GBC website with new discharge notices, but if that was the only issue then any of us, or our councillors, could have been advised of this days ago, saving long email trails copied to endless lists of people, and we would have had to leave it at that. But there has been no such explanation, and nothing published on the website. What is the problem? We are now right at the top of the GBC organogram in an attempt to answer what is a very straightforward Yes/No question.

And it is a critical one. Because beginning construction without discharging such a significant pre commencement condition would be illegal and may have the potential to invalidate the entire planning permission. It’s that serious.

On a lighter note, one creature seemed pleased to see the earthworks and scrub clearance taking place.


In the meantime, we’re taking advice and waiting to see what GBC says on Monday.


Leave a comment

Follow by Email