Developer cleared of wrongdoing over Knaresborough hedge removal by Harrogate council

Clearing work underway at the Manse Farm site in May. Picture: supplied
Clearing work underway at the Manse Farm site in May. Picture: supplied

Harrogate Borough Council has cleared a developer of any wrongdoing over the removal of hedges and trees at a major housing project on the outskirts of Knaresborough.

A council spokesperson confirmed an enforcement case opened to investigate any potential breaches at the Manse Farm development has now been closed, with the authority "satisfied" no infringements occurred during the work.

The removal of hedgerows at the 600-home development was undertaken by developers Linden Homes on May 7 and 9.

It led to angry Knaresborough residents contacting the council directly with their concerns, specifically because removal was undertaken during bird nesting season which runs from March to August.

Locals outraged over Knaresborough hedgerow removals
The authority subsequently opened an enforcement case to investigate, which they have now closed after stating they are "satisfied" with a report provided by an independent ecologist hired by Linden Homes, who was on site during the work.

"Following an enquiry we opened a planning enforcement case to explore whether a planning condition for (the development) had been breached, or not," the spokesperson.

"Following the report from the independent ecologist the case has now been closed."

In order to remove hedges during nesting season, Linden Homes were required to have an independent ecologist on site, with the developer hiring environmental consultants Ecus to carry out the work.

Developers respond to criticism over controversial hedge removal at Knaresborough
The firm's report outlined what work was undertaken and what was postponed at the site.

This included the removal of a 350-metre stretch on May 7 after the ecologist found four empty nests in it.

With no adult birds witnessed nearby, the stretch was green-lighted for removal.

Another section of hedge near the proposed entrance to the development off the A59 was removed, but a five-metre exclusion zone was set around a single active woodpigeon nest discovered at the site.

The report stated that another 350m stretch of dense hedge was deemed unsuitable for removal at the time, after nesting behaviour from blackbirds and robins were identified.

The Ecus report concludes that two sections of hedgerow at the site would only be cleared outside of the bird nesting season.

It also confirmed that a meeting of ecologists from Ecus and Harrogate Borough Council and a representative of Linden Homes took place after North Yorkshire Police's wildlife crime officer attended the site.

North Yorkshire Police confirmed they attended following calls from concerned members of the public, and made enquiries at the scene and subsequently with the local authority, with no case opened.

Shan Oakes, the Green candidate for the parliamentary seat of Harrogate and Knaresborough who has previously spoken out over the development, said she was "extremely disturbed" that council had approved the work.

"Too much building is happening on greenfield sites as it's much easier for developers than using brownfield sites," she said.

"Humans need to slow down, not speed up...and think carefully about how to do things differently."

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter