AN investigation has been launched into alleged breaches to planning conditions by a developer – including the potential disturbance of active badger setts.

In February, Bellway Homes won its appeal to the planning inspectorate, which overturned a decision by Warrington Borough Council to refuse a planning application.

It meant the developer could build 64 homes in Lymm at Tanyard Farm, off Rushgreen Road, which is in the green belt.

However, serious concerns have been raised over the work taking place.

An environmental specialist, who lives close to the site but wishes to remain anonymous, claimed construction work has been halted following planning condition breaches.

The specialist also claims the majority of recommendations outlined in environmental reports have been ignored, adding that the site has been ‘stripped of all its ecological features’.

And concerns have intensified following the reported deaths of three badgers on Rushgreen Road, adjacent to the site, since work commenced.

They are believed to have been as a result of roadkill – with Bellway Homes saying the deaths occurred off site.

Fears have also been expressed over Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam within the land where the development is taking place.

The specialist has warned problems with the housing in years to come is possible due to the ‘rapid spread of the species and large root systems’.

Bellway Homes has responded to the matters.

A spokesman said: “Regarding the alleged deaths of three badgers; as such while this is upsetting news, we were advised of this by our ecologist and the local authority last week, and it must be noted that it has been accepted by all parties that this occurred off site.”

In relation to the alleged planning condition breaches, he added: “We have submitted all pre-commencement information to discharge the relevant condition and can advise that we are working with the local planning authority to have these formally discharged.”

It also says work on site has not been halted.

The council has released a short statement.

“We are aware of these issues and are currently carrying out an investigation,” said a spokesman.

“We are unable to comment further while this investigation is ongoing.”

However, in e-mails seen by the Warrington Guardian, on Wednesday, a principal environmental enforcement officer at the council said he understands work on the site has stopped while consideration is given to address the matters.

It came after he said he understands a number of conditions have been breached.

He stated it is now necessary to determine the ‘next appropriate action having regard to the full implications of the breach’.

Furthermore, he said he has contacted the developer to ‘discuss the status’ of its planning permission ‘in light of the breaches’.

And he stated any wildlife-related offences, including harm to badgers, is within the remit of the police rather than the council.

The conditions that he said he understands have been breached include a condition that, prior to any earthworks, a resurvey of the site within and up to 30 metres from the development for badger setts shall be carried out, and a ‘reasonable avoidance’ method statement to prevent damage to setts and harm to badgers during construction and site clearance shall be submitted to and agreed in writing by the local authority.

The condition adds that development shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details.

Other conditions he said he understands have been breached include a condition aiming to prevent harm to amphibians during site clearance work, a condition to confirm measures to eradicate and/or control Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed, as well as a condition stating no works to trees or shrubs shall occur, or demolition commence, between the March 1 and August 31 in any year, unless a detailed bird nest survey by a suitably experienced ecologist has been carried out immediately prior to clearance, and written confirmation provided that no active bird nests are present.

A badger sett is defined as any structure or place, which displays signs indicating current use by a badger.

Government guidance says developers may need to get a licence from Natural England if they can’t avoid disturbing badgers in their sett or damaging their sett.

It adds that anyone who intentionally captures, kills or injures a badger, or damages, destroys or blocks access to their setts, or disturbs badgers in setts could be sent to prison for up to six months and get an unlimited fine – if found guilty of an offence.

Natural England has not responded to a request for a comment.

The issues have been reported to Cheshire Police.

But, on Tuesday, the force said the chief inspector is ‘not aware of any allegations’ on the matter but advised that the police would support the council over any planning breaches, if required.