Whilst the site manager’s away the badgers will play

It’s all gone a bit quiet on the Urnfield. The two shipping containers that form the site office have been locked and unoccupied for a fortnight and the diggers have disappeared, leaving huge mounds of chalky earth, the root mass of all the trees that have been chopped down and a range of construction paraphernalia.

At the beginning of April the Tormead Head assured parents that the contractor was on site beginning construction and would “continue until completion”. So where has everyone gone?

Has an interesting archaeological object been unearthed in the chalk? A Romano British urn, perhaps (the clue’s in the name)? Remnants of the PoW camp that was sited on Merrow Downs towards the end of the Second World War? Or maybe a toxic substance that requires decontamination? It’s unlikely to be the latter, as the ground is still being used regularly by Tormead for cricket.

Whatever the reason, our stripy-headed friends are making the most of the peace and quiet. There is a new and substantial spoil heap leading from a badger sett entrance, dug in the last 48 hours [photo cropped so as to protect the exact location].

Let’s hope for Tormead’s sake that they have plans in place to protect this entrance hole as they seek a licence from Natural England to close all setts on and adjacent to the Urnfield. If not then the school and its contractor risk contravening the Badger Protection Act 1992. Local residents, as ever, will be watching very carefully.

MDRG members submitted several written questions to a full Council meeting last week, attempting to find out what went wrong to allow another deemed discharge to take effect, clearing the way for construction to start. This has resulted in the Landscape and Ecology Management Plan (the “LEMP”) from November effectively approved by default.

In front of the whole Council, the lead for Planning admitted that GBC had got the process wrong. In confirming that no one in Planning knew about the deemed discharge notice sent by Tormead, she also therefore confirmed that the person who posed as a local resident and alerted us in mid February to the deemed discharge (fraudulently using another resident’s home address in the email) could not have been from the council.

So who could possibly have sent that email?

As we said in the Council meeting, we do understand the enormous pressures faced by the Planning department, and we want to work constructively with GBC to ensure that the failures in process affecting the Urnfield do not happen again there, or anywhere else. It’s in all of our interests to have an effective and high performing planning function, one that developers cannot take advantage of. And one that recognises and values the Surrey Hills, of which we are all just custodians. We’re ready to support GBC to that end.

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