Mower cuts short Erskine Lodge snake survey

Tonie Armstrong with wrecked reptile survey tiles.

Picture Mark Westley ANL-160208-231839009

Tonie Armstrong with wrecked reptile survey tiles. Picture Mark Westley ANL-160208-231839009

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A housing developer has been accused of compromising vital wildlife assessments on a controversial site by cutting the grass days after a reptile survey began.

Havebury Housing Partnership must provide environmental surveys to comply with the planning permission granted in April for 23 affordable homes at Erskine Lodge, Great Whelnetham, with outline permission for 35 more on an adjacent green field site which is part of the Sicklesmere conservation area.

A grass snake ENGPNL00120110916104537

A grass snake ENGPNL00120110916104537

Local residents saw over the weekend of July 23/24, ‘tiles’ of black roofing felt had been laid on the grass for the green field site for the reptile survey.

But Tonie Armstrong, whose Sicklesmere home backs onto the site, was surprised last Saturday morning to hear someone mowing the site.

“Some of the tiles had been put to one side and he’d gone over others,“ she said. “I asked what he was doing and he said Havebury had asked his company to mow the grass.”

The man phoned his boss, but was told to continue mowing as that was what Havebury had wanted. Several tiles were cut up.

Mrs Armstrong said: “Once you cut all this, all the bugs and moths have to move and the reptiles and bats will be feeding in a different area.

“Havebury know what they’re doing – I’m really fed up with them. They’ll say there’s no wildlife up there.”

She claimed they had also removed roof tiles from the former sheltered housing block where locals say bats roosted and had cut hedges. Havebury has also applied for permission to remove certain trees.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust conservation planner James Meyer said to do a reptile survey you have to visit several times, to see if reptiles are on or under the tiles, in the right weather, at the right time of year.

“They won’t have had that between last weekend and this weekend,” he said. “If they’ve made the habitat unsuitable, it’s going to compromise the survey – they won’t get the full picture of what it going on there.”

He said if there are snakes and lizards there, they are likely to have been displaced by the mower.

Peter Royce, chairman of Great Whelnetham Parish Council said: “I hope the borough council will take appropriate measures.”

A St Edmundsbury Borough Council spokesman said: “We are investigating and will be speaking to the developer.”

Havebury Housing have been asked to comment.