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Claims that otters and badgers use Jesmond Wood in Highcliffe ‘utter fantasy’ says developer Chris Bulstrode

CLAIMS that otters and badgers use woodland in Highcliffe that is at the centre of a planning row have been described as “utter fantasy” by the developer who wants to build on it.

Chris Bulstrode is the owner of Brentland Ltd, which is appealing against BCP Council’s refusal to allow it to erect 16 four-bedroom homes on land south of Jesmond Avenue.

He also recently submitted an application to fell 47 trees on the site after 40-plus had already been chopped down because, according to Mr Bulstrode and the council, they were diseased and dying.

Computer generated image of houses Mr Bulstrode wants to build on land south of Jesmond Avenue
Computer generated image of houses Mr Bulstrode wants to build on land south of Jesmond Avenue

There have been more than 220 objections to the application, with residents claiming the land is part of a “green corridor” through the village that is full of birds, animals and other creatures.

During a recent television interview, vice chair of Highcliffe and Walkford Parish Council, Adam Sofianos, argued the land is a “wildlife haven” and produced video of badgers and otters he said he had filmed in “nearby gardens”.

Mr Sofianos told the A&T: “Residents have reported seeing deer on the outskirts of the woodland, and badgers and otters within 200 metres of it. There is a presumption they are using the woodland to access gardens.

“The applicant’s own survey confirmed the woodland is home to endangered birds, protected bats, and grass snakes. It is a treasure trove in terms of its biodiversity.

“But the applicant is using every means at his disposal to slowly destroy the woodland. He wants to remove as many trees he can because they obstruct his attempts to develop the land.”

But Mr Bulstrode said it was an “utter fantasy” that badgers and otters use the land.

Chris Bulstrode at the site in Jesmond Avenue which is at the centre of a bitter planning row
Chris Bulstrode at the site in Jesmond Avenue which is at the centre of a bitter planning row

“There is a small trickle of water forming a small stream, which is not enough to support either creature.

“They would not survive on the site, and I have certainly never seen them there, or any evidence they are living there. If the council can provide an environmental study by an independent expert who backs up these claims, I would be interested in seeing it.”

BCP councillor for Highcliffe and Walkford, Andy Martin, accused Mr Bulstrode of “stripping the woodland tree by tree so it looks more like a development site to a planning inspector than a woodland.”

He added: “The fact there has been more than 200 objections to the application shows the strength of local feeling to this. We will fight it as hard as we can – losing this wood would be a catastrophe for the village.”

Mr Bulstrode, who was previously reported to police for felling trees at the site, which took no action against him, says he was asked by BCP Council to chop down the dying and diseased trees.

He said: “I have become the most hated man in Highcliffe simply for doing what the local authority wants. I don’t know why people keep calling this Jesmond Wood as there is no such thing.

“It is a plot of land owned by Brentland Ltd which was sold to us by Dorset Council on the understanding that we would obtain planning permission to develop it, as it has been earmarked as sustainable building land.

“Before that it was planned to use it as part of a highway relief road.”

In August, several protesters stood in front of trucks being used by workmen felling trees at the site and were said to have subjected them to abuse.

Police were called but no arrests were made. An inspection later carried out by BCPs arboriculture and landscape management team reported that the trees felled were dead or dying.

Samuel Fox, director of planning and destination at BCP Council, said: “Senior members of our arboriculture and landscape management team visited Jesmond Wood to meet the tree surgeon and inspect the trees that were set to be felled.

“The team inspected the 48 trees individually and established that the ones currently being felled are dead and as such are exempt from Tree Preservation Orders.

“We will be imposing ‘re-plant’ conditions on the site to ensure that the owners replace the trees that have died.”

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