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A LOCAL resident has accused Wiltshire Council of ‘double standards’ in a row over planning.
Gavin Parker says the council is enforcing planning and ecological rules on him, but not on a large housing development next door.
Gavin’s application to build an oak-framed garage on his property has been ‘refused’ by the council as there are records of great crested newts, a protected species, in a large pond on Gavin’s property.
However, the 450-strong housing development on land east of Spa Road, adjacent to Gavin’s land – and according to Gavin closer to the pond than his proposed garage – has been allowed to proceed – despite its ecological survey, carried out in 2010, not including the pond.
The large pond is the same pond that has been at the centre of an ongoing dispute with Wiltshire Council and the developers.
Gavin says building works have caused flooding in his and his neighbours’ gardens; and dead newts have been found in the flood waters, which could be considered a wildlife crime if it is proven that the newts are great crested.
Wiltshire Council has been criticised by the residents for “lack of due diligence” for not challenging the ecological survey, which is now over 10 years old but is still being used to support recent planning applications.
Gavin explains, “In the meantime the same group of ecologists in Wiltshire Council have refused an application made by me to build an oak framed garage on my property which is 60m away from the pond in question, because they say that there are great crested newts in the area.
“I have been instructed to re-submit an application when I have paid for an up-to-date ecological survey, which I would be happy to provide, without question, if the multi-million corporation that is building 450 houses in the field next door had been asked to do the same, in line with legislation that requires a survey to be conducted on any water feature that might be home to great crested newts within 500m of a new development.
“Is this the standard of decision making that we should have to accept from a local government bureaucracy that appears to be applying double standards in its treatment of private citizens and large corporations, and who isn’t willing or able to reply or to be held to account by the people it represents and who pay its bills?”
Melksham News posed a number of questions to Wiltshire Council, asking why Gavin’s application requires an ecological assessment report, whilst the David Wilson Homes development has not been asked to update its ecological report to include the large pond at Berkley House.
In response, Wiltshire Council’s corporate director for place and environment, Sam Fox said, “This is still a live planning application and has not been turned down. The planning team are happy to sit down with the applicant and work with him to resolve the issues before it is determined.”