A DEVELOPER has defended the clearance of ground earmarked for a potential housing scheme in Highcliffe.

Landowner Chris Bulstrode said contractors had been instructed to peg out the wooded site off Jesmond Avenue last week following a suggestion from BCP Council officers.

He said after they were unable to get on to the land due it being “overgrown”, the decision was made to clear the ground “very carefully” over two days.

This sparked a backlash from residents and councillors with the action reported to both the local authority and police.

Mr Bulstrode told the Daily Echo: “The site was overgrown, they (the contractor) couldn’t even enter. It needed to be cleared in order to do the pegging out.”

Bournemouth Echo:

A BCP Council spokesperson confirmed officers were investigating the matter and police had referred a report they had received to the rural crime team.

He said he did not understand why police had become involved, adding: “It is a sustainable development building site. It is private building land.”

The developer, who is a director of Brentland Ltd, said planning consultants Terence O’Rourke Ltd had been handling the planning application for the site, which was still being assessed by BCP Council officers.

Brentland’s current proposal for the site would see 16 four-bed homes and one three-bed family home built.

Bournemouth Echo:

Mr Bulstrode said “extensive negotiations” had been held, including over trees and ecology, with everything being done to “dot the Is and cross the Ts”.

The proposals would see more than 200 trees removed from the site, but the majority would stay untouched, the developer said.

He said the council suggested to Terence O’Rourke that it would help to peg the site out to visualise how the proposed houses would sit on the land.

A contractor was instructed to carry this out however they contacted Brentland to say they could not get on the site, Mr Bulstrode said.

The landowner said a decision was made to “clear the site very carefully” then the situation “blew up”.

Bournemouth Echo:

Mr Bulstrode said the proposed scheme was sustainable with 17 houses on three acres of land. He said none of the properties would have private gardens and new tree planting was part of the plans.

“The fence will come down and the whole site will then be open to the public,” Mr Bulstrode said.

The site was bought by Hampshire County Council in the 1960s with plans for a bypass through a compulsory purchase process. However, when the road scheme was scrapped the area was resold back to the previous landowner under Crichel Down Rules in 2015.

Mr Bulstrode added: “It is perfectly legitimate and sustainable site (for housing) which was acquired from us by the council for a highways scheme a long time ago. It was bought from us as building land and it still is today.”

A spokesperson for Terence O’Rourke said: “We were asked to peg out the site so that BCP Council officers could better understand the relationship of the proposed homes with the trees.

"This is an important issue and it is essential that it is fully understood.

“The site could not be pegged out without some clearance.

"None of the trees on site were affected, only ground clearance took place, which is a perfectly normal land management practice.”