COUNCIL officers have found no planning breaches over the ground clearance of a wooded site which is earmarked for a proposed housing development.

Landowner Chris Bulstrode instructed contractors to carry out work on the site off Jesmond Avenue in Highcliffe last month.

This was after a request from BCP Council officers for some of the proposed housing plots to be pegged out.

Mr Bulstrode told the Daily Echo it was not possible to do this without the ground clearance.

This activity sparked a backlash from residents and councillors, with a police investigation ongoing.

Speaking at a full council meeting on July 12, Cllr Bobbie Dove, portfolio holder for regulatory services, said a full assessment had been carried out and no planning breaches had occurred.

She said none of the trees which are subject to tree preservation orders had been brought down.

Cllr Lesley Dedman raised the issue with a question to Cllr Dove at the meeting.

The Christchurch Independents member said the “treasured area of green and established woodland” had been subject to “wholesale destruction”.

“Jesmond Wood is now a pitiful site, a wasteland, where before there was life and our residents are appalled. It is an environmental disaster,” Cllr Dedman said.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Lesley DedmanCllr Lesley Dedman

She asked for confirmation of what requests had been made by the council’s planning department.

Cllr Dove said she was very disappointed to see the extent of the clearance undertaken.

She said the planning department “never asked for, suggested, or endorsed any clearance” on the site.

“The planning department requested only that some plots were pegged out to further assess impact on protected trees,” said Cllr Dove.

“Pegging out is a common practice. There are many ways to do this and it is appropriate to consider on sites such as Jesmond Wood where there are many protected trees that could be affected by the development.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Bobbie DoveCllr Bobbie Dove

“There are many ways to peg out a site, which would not result in the extent of clearance seen on this occasion.

“At no point in any part of this request was there a suggestion that the planning department would support clearance for the pegging out to happen.”

She said Mr Bulstrode made the decision on clearance of his own volition.

She added: “I am really disappointed that the developer has linked the request for pegging for the opportunity to clear this and at no stage has the planning department requested any clearance to take place.”

Council officers are supporting police with their separate investigation, councillors were told.

Dorset Police received a report of potential harm caused to protected wildlife and launched an investigation through its rural crime team. Enquiries are ongoing and no arrests have been made.

Mr Bulstrode said he has not been contacted by police and he would happily speak with officers.

He previously 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.”

The director of Brentland Ltd said a decision was made to “clear the site very carefully” before the situation “blew up”.