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Thorley Lane East Woods housing plan threatens ‘vulnerable’ hedgehogs, says expert from Herts Hogline





A hedgehog expert has warned that development at Thorley Lane East Woods will destroy the vulnerable mammals’ habitat.

Lynne Garner, who runs the Herts Hogline rescue and welfare organisation, told Bishop’s Stortford Town Council’s planning and development committee the species has been recorded on the southern boundary of the site.

She said it was vital to protect the woodland, along with Mathams Wood and Jobbers Wood nearby, so that hedgehogs could roam freely and safely.

Stock image
Stock image

Hedgehogs were added to the Red List for UK mammals in 2020 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It said they were vulnerable and that numbers have declined by 46% over the past 13 years, with habitat fragmentation in urban areas cited as a contributory factor.

Urging the council to renew its efforts to buy the woodland, Lynne said the Green Belt site must be protected.

A planning application for a four-bedroom “passive” house on the site of the woodland and a new access has been submitted to planning authority East Herts Council.

Thorley Lane East Woods
Thorley Lane East Woods

The Planning Consultancy, based in Buntingford, is behind the new application to build in what it calls Rooks Wood at Thorley Lane East.

The company describes the three-hectare (7.4-acre) site as “dilapidated and unusable” and claims in a design and access statement: “The proposed dwelling would provide funds to revitalise the woodland to make it a usable space for the surrounding community.”

The statement says that removing dead trees, which “currently pose a safety risk”, would cost up to £50,000 and, once cleared, the site could be used by schools and community groups.

Cllr John Wyllie, who represents Thorley Manor on both the town and district councils, told the committee that the proposals were “totally out of keeping with the rural character of the area”.

Thorley Lane East Woods plan submitted to East Herts Council
Thorley Lane East Woods plan submitted to East Herts Council

He dismissed as “empty promises” the applicant’s assurances about continuing public access if the scheme was allowed to proceed as a means to upgrading the woodland, which is in the Green Belt and subject to a blanket tree preservation order. “There’s no guarantee that would happen,” he said.

He has asked for the application to be “called in” by the district council so that councillors rather than officers get the final say.

The town council committee unanimously voted to object to the application for the home, which would be accessed by a crossing over the existing ditch.

In all, more than 200 objections have been lodged against the scheme as part of opposition spearheaded by the Thorley Lane East Woods Action Group.

The campaigners first mobilised in August 2022 when the woodland was carved up into lots for auction and a town council bid to buy and safeguard the whole site was rejected.

Applications for a home and garage were submitted in 1994 and 2002; both were refused by the planning authority and again at appeal. Since then, protection for the site has been ramped up by its inclusion in the town’s neighbourhood plan as a valuable green space.

*To see planning applications and other public notices for your area, visitpublicnoticeportal.uk.



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