Plans for controversial luxury house next to Sefton woodland ‘full of wildlife’ approved

Trees protected by a preservation order would be lost in an area which sits next to a woodland habitat for red squirrels, owls and other wildlife.
What the property might look like as viewed from Harebell Close. Image: Planning DocumentsWhat the property might look like as viewed from Harebell Close. Image: Planning Documents
What the property might look like as viewed from Harebell Close. Image: Planning Documents

Controversial plans to build a luxury house next to Sefton woodland have been approved despite a “tidal wave of objections” from local residents.

The plans, for a detached house on an area of land off Raven Meols Lane and Harebell Close in Formby would see the loss of trees protected by a preservation order.

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The trees would be lost in an area which sits next to a woodland that is a habitat for red squirrels, owls and other wildlife.

Local residents had expressed concern at the plans with more than 140 objections received, mostly on the grounds of impact on ecology, loss of trees and as well as the effect of the development on neighbouring homes and the character of the area.

What did the residents say?

Speaking on behalf of a petition brought to a meeting of Sefton Council’s planning committee, and endorsed by Councillor Maria Bennett, local resident Mr Dunne said a decision on planning permission should be deferred so discussions could take place with a view to a “community asset transfer” of part of the land.

He said this would enable trees that are part of the preservation order to be kept on amenity land - for the public - instead of in private hands.

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This would ensure the protection of an important part of a wider network of green space that promotes and provides home to biodiversity in the area.

Referring to a new law, the Environment Act, which was given royal assent in November, Mr Dunne claimed that planning officers had failed to consider its ramifications in terms of the council’s requirement to protect biodiversity.

He said: “We’re not saying don’t build the house, but make sure it is proportionate in size and protects woodland.

“There’s not a day you don’t see owls, not a week you don’t see wild squirrels, [the site] is full of wildlife because it is part of a network.

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“We’re saying please preserve the trees and by doing so parcel the land.

“The new legislation that happened weeks ago, this is the type of initiative it is trying to promote – the development of new housing alongside the protection of biodiversity.”

Council overrule appeal

However officials said the new law was not fully in effect until various other pieces of legislation had been passed and so did not fall under the scope of the Town and Country Planning Act and could not form the basis for a deferral.

Head of Planning Derek McKenzie added that any attempt to defer to allow discussions to take place over a possible land deal could put the council in a “really dangerous position.”

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Mr McKenzie said: “The most important thing to stress is we have a planning application before the committee to be determined, not to determine that on the basis of someone who could sell to someone else.

“That could put us in a really dangerous position and I would caution the committee on that action.”

Speaking on behalf of the developer, Mr Lavin said: “The development will not harm the ecology of the site but instead will bring enhancements” adding that extensive consultation had taken place over the tree removal and mitigation plans and received no objections from the council’s tree officer.

After further discussion, the planning application was proposed to be approved subject to conditions including a 30 year mitigation plan, restrictions on future permitted development on the land and obscured glazing at a window overlooking the boundary of a neighbouring property.

Following a vote, approval was granted by nine votes to two, subject to conditions.

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