Image: Green Councillor Tony Dyer with Catherine Withers of Yew Tree Farm
Green Councillors in Bristol have reacted with anger and disappointment at the removal of a section of hedgerow as a result of mistakes made by the council.
On Tuesday morning, workers with chainsaws arrived at Yew Tree Farm, Bristol’s last working farm, to cut a 4m wide hole in an ancient hedgerow that has existed for at least 200 years.
The Newcombe Estates Company, which own a portion of land bounded by the hedgerow, applied to create a new entrance through the hedgerow back in February this year. Their land is currently a species rich hay meadow and has recently been designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI). It is thought that damaging work was approved due to a series of mistakes from the council.
The Greens also believe that as the hay meadow already has a usable entrance, the requirement for a second entrance that requires the destruction of an ancient habitat is unnecessary.
Cllr Emma Edwards, Leader of the Green Group, who helped organise a show of cross party support for the hedgerow earlier this year said:
“The destruction of this ancient hedgerow is a direct result of incompetence within the council and was sadly inevitable once it had failed to fulfil its duty to deal with the application by Newcombe Estates appropriately.”
“There is a culture within the current administration that rails against transparency and openness. Ward councillors are frequently left out of the loop regarding decisions affecting their wards, and it is no surprise that this has permeated further down the organisation. Information that should be shared is withheld, leading to preventable mistakes.
“I will be asking for a full report of the circumstances that have allowed this wholly preventable destruction to happen”.
Cllr Tony Dyer added; “We also need to look at the motivations of Newcombe Estates, and their relatively silent partners in this, the home developer Redrow. Newcombe Estates are clearly intent on seeing their part of the Yew Tree Farm SNCI developed for housing, causing irreparable harm and further erosion of the Green Belt.
“This is despite the elected representatives of Bristol voting overwhelmingly not once, but twice, to remove Yew Tree Farm, including the land owned by Newcombe Estates, from consideration for development.”
The latest of these votes was only last week, when an Extraordinary Full Council overwhelmingly approved the submission of the new Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate, which protects Yew Tree Farm from being developed on.
Cllr Dyer continued “Despite these democratic expressions of intent by Bristol City Council, as well as the designation of the new Yew Tree Farm Site of Nature Conservation Interest, it is clear that the landowners remain committed to their ambitions and have little or no concern for democratic process.”