When nature fights back against development

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Planning Law on Monday, March 26th, 2018

When developers are looking to break ground on a new site, as part of the planning process, they are often required to conduct an environmental review of the site to ensure protected species are not present.

Now pop star Ed Sheeran has been caught out in this process as his plans to construct a wedding chapel in his garden has been thwarted by a population of great crested newts.

Mr Sheeran, famous for hits such as Shape of You and Galway Girl, reportedly wants to build the new 12-metre-tall chapel in the grounds of his Suffolk mansion ahead of his upcoming marriage to fiancée, Cherry Seaborn.

He has submitted an application to Suffolk Coastal District Council, but the project has already been hampered by objections from locals over concerns about the rare, protected amphibian.

The objections say that the plan shows “total disregard to the local ecology” and claims that neighbouring pond has “one of the largest populations of [great crested newts] in the area”.

One objector added: “It would appear that the applicant – in his desire to satisfy the needs of the spiritual world – continues to overlook his obligations to the living world, particularly that of protected species.”

It is believed that objectors intended to involve Natural England, the Government body in charge of protecting Britain’s wildlife.

Under an EU directive, it is an offence to harm great crested newts, or their eggs, or their breeding sites and as such planning permission is often refused if any evidence of them or other protected breeds are identified on a site during an ecological survey.

Great crested newts are often a bugbear for developers, both prior to a build and during its construction as it can often bring an immediate halt to work if they are found.

Last year’s government white paper, which looked to streamline the process for housebuilding mentioned great crested Newts no fewer than eight times as a potential barrier to developments.

Mr Sheeran isn’t the only star to be afflicted by a newt problem. Previous media reports have hinted that Rod Stewart has previously undertaken the construction of new habitat for the newts on his Essex estate in order to get his Olympic-sized swimming pool built.

Despite receiving several planning objections due to the presence of newts, the local authority is yet to make a decision on the pop star’s flint chapel.

However, planning documents state that while the existence of the newts locally is recognised, Ed Sheeran’s site – which is 180 metres away – would be “a poor habitat for great crested newts” and that the newt population was “not expected to migrate to the chapel site”.

A decision on planning permission is expected in April.

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