A DEVELOPER has falsely claimed the authorities investigating alleged breaches to planning conditions – including the potential disturbance of active badger setts – are ‘satisfied’.

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

As reported last month, the council launched an investigation into the matter and it has been confirmed that the police are also investigating.

But an environmental specialist, who lives close to the site but wishes to remain anonymous, raised concerns over work continuing at the site while investigations were taking place.

They said it was a ‘disgrace’ that the council had not ‘put a stop to the works’ until the investigations were completed.

“It just shows really that the council do not care and are, therefore, just as guilty as Bellway,” they added.

Last month, in e-mails seen by the Warrington Guardian, a principal environmental enforcement officer said he understands a number of conditions have been breached.

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.

Warrington Guardian:

Concerns have been raised over the excavation work allegedly taking place close to badger setts

Bellway Homes has issued a statement on the matter.

A spokesman said: “The site has been visited by Greater Manchester Ecological Unit, Cheshire wildlife police and the planning enforcement officer, all of whom are satisfied.”

But the statement contradicts what the council says, with the authority insisting the issues are ‘very much unresolved’.

A spokesman said: “As previously stated, we are unable to provide any further information, as the investigation is still ongoing.

“There are several complex issues under consideration and the matters are very much unresolved.

“The investigation will continue until the council is completely satisfied in respect of all of the wildlife issues on site.”

Furthermore, 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.

The Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group said it is ‘extremely concerned’ over the reports of alleged disturbance of badger setts.

In a statement, it added: “This was brought to our attention by reports of three badger road casualties on Rushgreen Road close to the site, with one badger taken to the RSPCA Stapeley Grange where, sadly, it was put to sleep due to the severity of its injuries.

“Badgers use the same routes and crossing points nightly so with no previous reports of any road casualties in this vicinity it would suggest that there had been some level of sett disturbance.

“We welcome the investigation by Cheshire Police into the matter and would strongly urge WBC to make ‘in-house’ ecology a priority and reinstate the role of natural environment officer, particularly as they have extensive plans to allow development of large swathes of green space, nature reserves and green belt.

“The badger group have previously approached WBC to request that we are consultees on planning applications here in Warrington to assist developers in safeguarding badgers and their habitats to ensure sustainable development.

“Sadly, our request was declined.”

Former Mayor of Warrington Geoff Settle, the chairman of Warrington Nature Conservation Forum, has also commented.

He says he is ‘fighting hard’ for a role to be created for a natural environmental officer with knowledge and experience who ‘lives and breathes Warrington’.