RESIDENTS have raised concerns over a landscaping exercise conducted in Shinfield last week.
Bellway Homes has trimmed bushes and cut trees.
Local resident Claire Whitney said that she used the fields to walk her dogs and had emailed councillors to alert them to the works, but, as we went to press, had received no reply.
She said: “The field on Cutbush Lane South, before the new Bypass in Shinfield, is having wildlife threatened. Chain sawing and hedge cutting is taking out very large areas of shelter. I just witnessed a pheasant fly out from near the tractor with the cutting arm.
“This is the only field within safe walking distance of our house for walking our dog, it provides vital access to open green space for our family and many animals, wild and pets.”
And Richard Ingham said that Bellway Homes’ joint application with the University of Reading to build 250 houses in Shinfield had been withdrawn after the borough council’s planning committee turned down plans for a SANG (a country park) at its meeting on February 13.
Despite this, “Bellway Homes have gone ahead with clearing the land,” he said, adding that originally Bellway had planned to cut down trees but had scaled back their plans after residents’ protests.
He said: “My photos give the lie to this promise. They show trees very recently cut down during the work.”
And Jim Frewin, who is a member of SOS Save our Shinfield group against overdevelopment of the village, said: “There is clear Government guidance relating to hedgerows and from this it is clear that 1 March to 31 August is nesting season and therefore no responsible landowner should be cutting hedgerows yet alone trees.
“Residents were told a number of conflicting stories by Bellway and on notifying WBC were told that there was nothing Council could do. It would appear that Bellway and Reading University are above the rules of the land or at least just get away by ignoring them.
“The on-site Bellway representative informed us that ecological surveys had shown that there were no wildlife living in the field and a survey that show no ground nesting birds. We have pictures to show this is not true.”
And Wokingham Borough Council has pledged to keep an eye on the site, although it admitted that there were no requirements to protect any trees.
Executive Member for Planning Cllr Simon Weeks said: “Wokingham Borough Council is keeping a very close watch on the work taking place on the Cutbush Lane site to make sure it remains within the bounds of what is allowed.
“There are no Tree Protection Orders on the site and it is not a conservation area, which means the landowners is entitled to undertake landscape clearance works, for example removal of scrub planting and other tree works, without consent from the council.
“Protection of ecology, such as birds nesting or protection of any protected species is secured under separate legislation and the landowner and developer are aware that any harm caused could result in a criminal prosecution.
“WBC’s compliance officer visits the site regularly to check what was being undertaken and, should any works undertaken constitute a breach of planning control, the council will consider whether to take further action.”
Bellway Homes was contacted for a comment, but hadn’t responded as we went to press.