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Outrage after diggers move in to clear protected land

Developer defends action as business park becomes ‘victim of own success’

Campaigners have reacted with fury after a developer cleared an area of protected undergrowth and woodland to make way for a car park. George Wilson has given the go-ahead to remove trees and scrubland from the site at the back of The Links and Ryder Court, which was recognised as a protected open space by city council planners in 2009. He wants to build 28 new spaces on the one-acre site but does not have planning permission, angering Herne and Broomfield parish councillors. Speaking as workmen started clearing the site, Cllr Carol Davis said:

“We are outraged. It’s absolutely disgraceful that a developer can ride roughshod over an inspector’s ruling. They can’t be allowed to get away with it. They think they can do exactly what they like.”

In March 2009 a planning inspectorate report stated that an alternative area for parking could be found to protect the visual amenity of the area. But developer George Wilson said that the total area cleared is small and that enough screening from the A299 has been left intact. He said:

“We didn’t just rampage on there. We did all the necessary studies of local wildlife and have done things properly. Our work was carried out with sympathy and regard to the environment. It’s a postage stamp size of land by comparison to the amount of woodland behind it. We haven’t got planning permission, but we will apply for it. We’ve just cleared the land in the same way you would clear your back garden.”

Mr Wilson added that the former council site, which his company took over in 2008, is now a thriving home for 15 different businesses, with four more units still to come. He said:

“The Links business park is a victim of its own success. The council sold it to us on the condition that we would be creating jobs. The development has totally proved its worth. But the parking situation has become totally out of control. The roads onto the site are often being blocked which could be a problem for emergency vehicles. Building the 28 new spaces would go some way to alleviate the problem.”

Parish councillors had opposed the development citing concerns over parking as one of their key objections. City council spokesman Robert Davies said that the council is aware, but landowners are free to clear undergrowth on the site in preparation for a new planning application. He added:

“The landowner has not acted in a manner that would be in breach of any legislation enforceable by the city council. We have spoken to the landowner and he understands that if this land was to be used for car parking, then planning permission would be required. An application has not been submitted yet but we understand one may follow in due course.”

Herne Bay Gazette, April 10th 2014

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