A developer’s plans to squeeze a terrace of four homes onto old railway allotments in Brighton is being stalled by the question of whether or not there are slow worms living there.
People living near the patch of land, which backs onto the Open House pub’s garden on Springfield Road, say they were horrified when the new owner of the site, Brighton Housing Developments, cleared it before Christmas.
Planning permission was given on appeal in 2014 to build four houses on the site – subject to the snakelike reptiles being moved to a new home.
But this runs out in March, and John Blackburn-Panteli, director of Brighton Housing Developments which bought the plot in December last year, has now submitted a survey which states that no slow worms live on the site, so no relocation is needed.
However, county ecologist Kate Cole says the survey was done during periods of frosty nights, which could have triggered the slow worms’ hibernation period and account for none being found.
A petition to save the allotments from development has now been signed by more than 400 people. Clare Tyler, who started it, said: “The old railway allotments between Springfield Road and London Road station, home to a wealth of wildlife and a much-loved conservation area in the heart of the city, have been destroyed.
“Much to our dismay, a developer recently bought the land with planning permission, and hastily chopped down all the woodland just before Christmas without any prior notice to the local residents or the community and plans to build four houses, immediately beside the rail track and Open House pub.
“The community are fighting this, and we will continue to fight. The piece of land was an oasis of woodland, shrubbery and wildlife.
“Now it’s a barren site – we hope it can be saved, and at the very least, we want the developers to strictly adhere to all conditions going forward- and the slow worms saved!”
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