Residents opposing a controversial Colwell green-field housing development sprang into action on Friday (February 25) when they spotted a contractor ‘topping’ the Birch Close field.
The 44-dwelling development on the field at the back of the quiet cul-de-sac had previously been branded ‘destructive’ by opponents, but the Isle of Wight Council planning department has recommended the project be given permission, subject to 26 conditions.
When residents saw the contractor driving a tractor on site, they challenged him and explained that the field was subject to a planning approval with lots of conditions including wildlife surveys.
Huw Jenkins, of the Sustainable Freshwater Community Group, said: “The contractor was polite and friendly and said it was something he had done for a local business a few years ago.
“He said he would ask for confirmation from the business or the owners before continuing to ‘top’ the field. He then drove off the field.
“By the time we got there, around 8.30am, he had already done several circuits of the grassy area. In discussion, he said that all hedge trimming work needed to be completed by the end of February before the bird-nesting season gets under way – but he didn’t say whether he had been asked to cut the hedges.
“However, he had been instructed to clear the field of all the brambles. My thoughts are that this could be an attempt to ‘cleanse’ the field of its wildlife ahead of the environmental conditions imposed as part of the planning approval, for example, the exceptional population of slow worms that are known to exist here.”
An Isle of Wight Council spokesman said: “The council was notified of works being carried out at Birch Close in Freshwater on Friday morning. The works involved a tractor topping grass at the site.
“We understand that local residents spoke to the worker on site, who stopped works and left. Planning officers attended the site shortly afterwards on Friday morning and found that a limited area of grass had been topped.