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Highcliffe land set for 23 homes could contain unmapped ancient woodland

Brentland Ltd director Chris Bulstrode at the site off Jesmond Avenue, Highcliffe
Brentland Ltd director Chris Bulstrode at the site off Jesmond Avenue, Highcliffe

A CONTENTIOUS plan to build 23 homes in Highcliffe has been called in for a decision by councillors after concerns it could replace “unmapped ancient woodland”.

More than 100 people have objected to the “cramped” proposals submitted for land off Jesmond Avenue by Brentland Ltd, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Now the Woodland Trust has called for the land to be assessed to see whether it is undocumented ancient woodland, deserving higher planning protection, before any redevelopment is decided by BCP Council.

The developer withdrew a 54-home scheme for the site last year before lodging its latest 23-home outline version in November. It said the new design “would make more efficient use of urban land”.

But the application has already attracted more than 100 letters of objection, saying it would “destroy” the green corridor between the older and newer parts of Highcliffe.

The Woodland Trust added: “The ecology report supporting the application indicates that this site could be unmapped ancient woodland.

“Ancient woodland, continuously wooded since at least 1600, is irreplaceable. It is our richest wildlife habitat, having developed over centuries, and contains a high proportion of rare and threatened species, many of which are dependent on the particular conditions that this habitat affords.”

The wood dates back to at least 1888 when it was identified in Ordnance Survey maps.

With ancient woodland covering just 2.4% of the country, it is given extra protection in planning policy with the national planning framework updated in 2018 to discourage development that would “result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats”.

Should the land be classified as such, it would require “wholly exceptional” circumstances to be redeveloped and “suitable” compensation be provided by the developer.

As reported in the A&T, an arboriculture report commissioned by Brentland director Christopher Bulstrode stated the majority of the trees were “low quality, structurally poor specimens that are not worth keeping”.

But as a result of the Woodland Trust’s concerns, Highcliffe and Walkford ward councillor Nick Geary has called in the application.

This will mean the council’s planning committee will have to make the final decision on it.

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