Marske protest: Hundreds gather to protest "wildlife crime scene" at new Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes developments in seaside village

Residents in North Yorkshire have accused housing developers of a “wildlife crime scene” amid claims animals were left scurrying for cover by hedgerows being cut down.

More than a hundred people, some with banners, gathered in Marske in heavy rain to express frustration at recent events prompted by reserved matters planning approval for 810 new homes on the edge of the village given earlier this year.

New access onto the site – which followed the installation of a steel fence around it – has been created for enabling works with developers Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes stating it was in line with permissions given.

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Residents said more than 200 metres of hedgerow had been removed and gave accounts of the likes of hares and hedgehogs being uprooted as a result.

People upset about the hedgerow removal carried banners and gathered in pouring rain. Picture/credit: Jessica Hughes. Free for use for all LDRS partners.People upset about the hedgerow removal carried banners and gathered in pouring rain. Picture/credit: Jessica Hughes. Free for use for all LDRS partners.
People upset about the hedgerow removal carried banners and gathered in pouring rain. Picture/credit: Jessica Hughes. Free for use for all LDRS partners.

Rita Skoczypec, whose house backs on to the development site, said: “There was a group of 20 or so hares left running aimlessly and panicked across the expanse of the field.

“It was distressing to see wildlife frantically looking for cover.”

Lisa Chapman, another resident who lives in the vicinity, claims she saw a “disorientated” pheasant in her front garden, which then wandered into the road.

She said: “I have never had a pheasant in my garden before.

Councillor Dr Tristan Learoyd speaks to those present.Councillor Dr Tristan Learoyd speaks to those present.
Councillor Dr Tristan Learoyd speaks to those present.
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“I was devastated when I heard the awful noise of [the] hedgerow being cut down.”

Brian Goodwill, who lives nearly half a mile from the site, said: “The evening after the removal of hedgerow at the development site we suddenly had an entire family of hedgehogs come to our garden in search of food and shelter.”

There has been sustained opposition to the housing development, which when built will be approximately the size of 71 football pitches.

Marske councillor Dr Tristan Learoyd, who organised the protest, said it would increase the size of the village by 50 per cent.

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He said there was a belief locally that the developers were “putting profit before everything else, including nature” and demanded that planning conditions and local wildlife were respected.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has been told that no planning conditions were breached with the hedge removal having previously been detailed in an arboricultural impact assessment document considered by Redcar and Cleveland Council members in the decision making process.

Coun Learoyd claimed a “large central band” of hedging had been removed, amounting to more than just a “few hedges” around an access point.

A spokesman for the two housing developers said: “We understand the concerns of some local residents and would like to assure them that preserving and enhancing local wildlife is a key consideration when we plan and build new developments.

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“As well as a large area of public open space with a significant amount of new trees and plants, we will also be installing bird and bat boxes, hedgehog highways, bug hotels and bee bricks around the development.

“We can confirm that contractors have recently been on site to create a temporary access point which included some hedgerow removal.

“This work has been completed, in line with permissions we have received, to allow works for security fencing and access prior to an official start on site.”

‘People are bitter’

Coun Learoyd, meanwhile, said he was unhappy with the response to requests for local financial contributions from Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes, who he claimed could make more than £40m in profit from the “massive development”.

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He said: “People are bitter about us getting nothing from the developers but inconvenience.

“We have crumbling infrastructure, a community operated leisure centre with a roof in need of repair, dilapidated playgrounds and a sports club in urgent need of investment.”

In response, the spokesman for the developers said more than £2.2m was being provided through agreements with the council towards primary education and improving local amenities and facilities, while 15% of the planned housing would be in the affordable category.

The bulk of this will see £2.1m eventually provided towards a potential new primary school and £90,501 towards community facilities.

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Contributions also included £25,000 for Marske Leisure Centre and £12,000 towards a public right of way.

The housing plans include provision for a drive through fast food restaurant, pub, hotel, convenience store, chemist, petrol station, primary school, children’s day nursery and community hall.

In March when reserved matters – essentially the detail of the plans – were approved former council planning committee chairman Councillor Stuart Smith claimed there had been “unacceptable bullying and underhand tactics” from some residents opposed to the plans.

But Coun Smith’s claim was described as “nonsense” by Coun Learoyd, who co-founded a ‘Stop the Houses’ campaign way back in 2012, with the latter also going on to succeed the former as council planning committee chairman following local elections in May.

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The development was refused by Redcar and Cleveland Council after plans were first lodged in 2013, but after an appeal by applicant and land owner the West Midlands Pension Fund, which led to a public inquiry, a Government planning inspector gave outline planning permission four years later, subject to a number of conditions.

Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes have been chosen as the preferred developers for the scheme and have submitted updated plans for their respective phases, which will include 402 new homes to be built by the former and 410 by the latter, a mixture of semi-detached, detached and terraced homes.

It has been described as a high quality, attractive development that will be a sustainable addition to the area, while helping meet demand for new homes, although critics have likened it to a “new town” which could “overwhelm” Marske.