Clearing work causes outrage

PUBLISHED: 11:29 30 January 2008 | UPDATED: 21:21 31 May 2010

Clearing work has outraged environmentalists.

Clearing work has outraged environmentalists.

CLEARING work being carried out in a conservation area on school grounds has outraged environmentalists. Friends School, on Mount Pleasant Road in Saffron Walden, has started work felling trees in a two-acre site that is protected for wildlife. Neighbour

CLEARING work being carried out in a conservation area on school grounds has outraged environmentalists.

Friends' School, on Mount Pleasant Road in Saffron Walden, has started work felling trees in a two-acre site that is protected for wildlife.

Neighbour Jim Dwyer, who lives on Greenways, said: "I was shocked when I saw what they had done. Having previously seen the area, there were lots of nests and birds - now the area is totally bare."

In November the school had controversial plans to sell off some of their grounds to developers thrown out by Uttlesford District Council's (UDC's) development control committee.

The proposal was rejected on four grounds, but most significantly, because it would involve developing the protected conservation area (known as Site A) - by building 20 terraced houses and five apartments there.

Mr Dwyer said: "It seems ever so suspicious that the area has been left untouched for 15 years. Then they have their planning permission refused and all of a sudden they start cutting down trees.

"We suspect that they are clearing the area, so when they come to reapply for the planning permission it no longer looks like a conservation area."

Mr Dwyer is part of the friends and neighbours group (FANG) which represents all the roads that surround the protected area of land, also known as Young Farmers Field.

After the group complained to the district council about the school's activities last week, council officers inspected the site.

A spokesman for the planning department at UDC said: "We are aware of shrub clearance and coppicing being carried out in the 'plantation' on the eastern edge of the Friends' School grounds. Whilst it is recognised that the clearance of shrubs will change the character and habitat of this area this work is not in contravention of any planning controls. We have been advised by the school that the principal trees are to be retained."

A Friends' School spokesman said: "The school is undertaking essential management of the Young Farmers Field, an area to the east of the school playing field. This is to ensure adequate site lines throughout the field, increasing pupil safety. The work will also enhance the school use of the area, particularly for cross-country running.

"The management works involve removing shrubs and hawthorn. The hazel will be coppiced and the trees will have their crowns lifted to a height of two metres.

"The school has not been contacted about this work by any of our neighbouring residents. We would have been happy to explain the extent of this work had we been asked.

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