Outrage has been voiced over the removal of a stretch of hedgerows by developers of a 600 home project in Killinghall.
The hedges along Penny Pot Lane that separated the plot of rolling green fields from the road were cut down despite permission only being granted for Persimmon Homes to remove part of the hedges for road and sight line access.
Henry Pankhurst, Chairman of the Harrogate Civic Society, has explained the loss could have serious repercussions for the area and its surrounding wildlife.
Mr Pankhurts said: “The problem with the hedgerow is that they cannot just be reinstated as if a wall was taken down.
“We have to enforce a reintroduction and this is a serious matter, it also involved small to medium trees being pulled down. It is essential that something is done.
“I would have thought that any big developer would know that permissions is need to be sought to make something like this official.
“I am aware that they needed to take a small amount down for their access but they should know to touch any more requires this process.
“It is the worst time of year that this could have happened, for the birds and animals in the vicinity it will compound the sin of their removal.”
The developer claims it had attempted to net the hedges to prevent birds nesting and that would delay construction, the attempt failed and a decision was taken to remove them.
Simon Usher, managing director for Persimmon Homes Yorkshire, said: “A decision was made to remove the vegetation under the supervision of a qualified ecologist and no birds were affected during the removal.
“These works have not removed any vegetation beyond that which will be necessary for the access works to take place - but we do apologise for the removal of the vegetation as this wasn’t our original intention.
“We intend to work closely with Harrogate Borough Council to respond fully to any enquiries they may have, and ensure that the development is delivered as soon as is practical.”
Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council executive for Highways, road safety, access to the countryside and public transport was contacted by residents who informed him of the felling. It was reported that as a copse was cut down a single deer ran from cover and fled.
Coun Mackenzie said: “This is a very unfortunate situation. At least the matter is now being dealt with seriously, but I am very saddened by the loss of an established hedgerow at the very time that wildlife needs it.”
No permission was sought under the hedgerow regulations act of 1997 for the whole removal of the row according to planning enforcement officers.
The springtime is also nesting season for birds and legislation protects trees and shrubs during the breeding season which lasts between March and October. The removal could be considered a breach of the wildlife and countryside act if any breeding birds are in the vegetation. North Yorkshire Police have been contacted by the enforcement officer to assess if an offence has been committed.
A spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council said:“We are currently seeking the advice of our arboriculturalist and ecologist, as well as our legal team, so we can assess whether or not there has been a breach of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and/or an offence under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997.
“Once the situation is clear, we will contact the owners and the developers and notify them of our conclusions and what we intend to do next.”