Highcliffe residents welcome news Jesmond Wood developer Chris Bulstrode has withdrawn his planning appeal – for now
Highcliffe residents are claiming “victory” after a developer withdrew his appeal over a controversial plan to erect 16 four-bedroom homes on land south of Jesmond Avenue.
But their celebrations could be short-lived following an announcement by applicant Chris Bulstrode that further plans for the site would be submitted in the future.
Mr Bulstrode, who owns Brentland Ltd, appealed against BCP Council’s refusal to allow his proposed scheme for the site locals call Jesmond Wood, which had sparked 220 objections.
But this week, Cllr Andy Martin, who previously claimed development of the land would be “catastrophic” for Highcliffe, posted on social media that Mr Bulstrode had withdrawn his appeal, stating: “The developer’s agent has notified the Planning Inspectorate of the following: ‘In light of the ongoing situation in the River Avon and the limited prospects for progress within the course of this appeal, my client has reluctantly accepted that the appeal does not have any reasonable chance of success.’”
Cllr Martin explained that all planning applicants for new homes in the Christchurch area now have to demonstrate they have secured phosphorus mitigation measures before consent can be approved.
He added that the River Avon was “saturated” with phosphates.
Residents greeted the news with joy, with one saying: “Brilliant news about Jesmond Wood. Your hard work and persistence have paid off.”
Others are now calling for barriers Mr Bulstrode had installed around the patch of land to be taken down.
But Mr Bulstrode told the A&T he has no intention of taking them down and has not abandoned his hopes to build on what he says is “not a wood and never was a wood”.
He said: “The appeal was withdrawn solely on the grounds of the phosphate issues, nothing more. The local planning department, if you can call it that, are unable to determine any applications in Christchurch and Highcliffe as a consequence just now, so the inspector would have been unable to approve the appeal anyway.
“You can be assured that as soon as the political and environmental issues have been ratified, we will be making further planning applications.”
The land Mr Bulstrode wants to build on was a compulsory purchase by the former Dorset Council from his family’s firm for the construction of a highway relief road. But the road was never built.
It was sold back to Mr Bulstrode, he says, “on the understanding that we would obtain planning permission to develop it, as it has been earmarked as sustainable building land”.
Last year Mr Bulstrode, who has dubbed himself “The most hated man in Highcliffe”, was reported to police after felling 40 trees at the site. Angry residents held protests to stop him cutting down more, stopping contractors entering the land.
But an investigation by BCPs arboriculture and landscape management team reported that the trees felled were dead or dying.
Residents have claimed that Jesmond Wood, which has no public access, is a “haven” for wildlife and is full of birds, animals, and other creatures.
Cllr Martin said it was “good news” that the appeal had been withdrawn, but cautioned: “We don’t know what will happen next. Mr Bulstrode may have further thoughts on how he wants to progress.
“It won’t be over unless the community, the parish council, or BCP council can buy the woodland back, if that is ever an option.”