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MELKSHAM councillors and residents are angry that a hedgerow containing trees planted by former pupils has been cut down ‘in error’ at the George Ward building site.
A row of hedge and small trees along Dunch Lane was razed to the ground recently by contractors working for Persimmon Homes, which is building 261 new homes at the former school.
200 trees were planted there by pupils of the school around 20 years ago, Melksham News understands. But it emerged recently that parts of the hedge had been cut down without planning permission.
Melksham Without Parish Council decided at a meeting on Monday to demand that the area is replanted.
And councillors were surprised to find out that there doesn’t seem to be any sanctions to stop developers chopping down trees without permission.
Chair, councillor Richard Wood said at the meeting, “This was a clear infringement of the planning permission and we must hold the developers to account, not just put our hands up and let them get away with it.”
Town councillor for Melksham North, Pat Aves, also spoke of her annoyance saying, “This is a terrible thing to have happened and I’m annoyed and upset about it. If I had known about the history of that area I think we could have done more to prevent this, but nobody came forward during planning.
“I have been told that ‘a subcontractor did it’, but that isn’t an excuse and the hedge must at least be replaced.”
Neither Wiltshire Council or Persimmon Homes could produce proof that planning permission was given, and Persimmon declined to comment.
A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said, “The scheme does allow for removal of trees and hedges for that part of the development site. However the developer has agreed to provide some additional plantings and has also acknowledged they have removed parts of the hedgerow in error and this will be replaced.”
But critics say the removal of trees and hedges went far beyond what was permitted.
And correspondence later shown to Melksham News this week shows a planning officer acknowledged that contractors had acted outside of approved plans. The officer also said that Persimmon had told them ‘remedial planting’ would be done at some point ‘dependent on the planting season’.
Local resident William Goossens said, “This kind of behaviour would not be tolerated by farmers, residents or anybody else, so what gives the right for these developers to act with impunity?
“Every business, regardless of its size, has a responsibility to keep our town beautiful and to respect the local landscape. Wiltshire Council would do wisely to seriously consider to whom they give their future contracts.”
Shaw man Roger Hollest said, “The wanton destruction of the hedges and trees [at George Ward Gardens] makes the name of the estate something of a sick joke.
“In my view, the building work could have been done within the hedges without losing any serious amount of land available for housing.
“We should be able to expect that our elected representatives at County Hall and their appointed professional staff lay down much more stringent rules regarding the protection of the natural environment when a development takes place.”