Woodland clearance for new development by Derbyshire canal sparks uproar

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High Peak Borough Council has defended its decision to allow the clearance of a scenic patch of woodland on the Peak Forest Canal in Whaley Bridge, saying that long dormant planning permissions are still valid – leaving residents in uproar.

Heavy machinery rolled on to the site known as Hogs Yard – between the canal and the River Goyt just south of Tesco – on Thursday, October 27, and made short work of clearing the mix of mature trees and undergrowth.

One woman, who lives on a boat nearby and asked not to be named, said: “It’s privately owned, but you wouldn’t know that walking past. It’s just a nice feature that adds beauty to that part of the canal.

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“The contractors first turned up on June 30, right in the middle of bird nesting season. We’d seen no ecological surveys and no consultations, so we didn’t believe they had planning approval and a group of us physically stopped the work until the contractors left.”

Contractors at work clearing the woodland by the Peak Forest Canal on Friday, October 28.Contractors at work clearing the woodland by the Peak Forest Canal on Friday, October 28.
Contractors at work clearing the woodland by the Peak Forest Canal on Friday, October 28.

She added: “The site has a complex planning history. There are three plots, two where Tesco and B&M are now, and a number of other applications but all the permissions seemed to have expired.”

After residents lobbied the council to intervene, officers imposed a six-month Tree Preservation Order (TPO) to clarify the legal situation – so it came as an unwelcome surprise when contractors returned less than four months later.

The woman said: “As far as we knew, the TPO was still in place but then the council’s tree officer told us he’d been made to lift it. He wouldn’t give any more details on where that instruction came from or why.

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“The woodland can’t be replaced, but the other aspect of this is due process and making sure people are held to account. To rip down woodland without any consideration of what value it holds for the community is appalling.”

How part of the site looked following the work.How part of the site looked following the work.
How part of the site looked following the work.

The residents again lobbied local politicians to intervene last week before the clearance was complete but work continued without interruption or explanation.

When contacted, council leader Anthony McKeown said: “The council made a provisional Tree Preservation Order on this site earlier this year to allow time for site investigation to take place.

“After investigation and review, in light of extant planning permissions HPK/2004/0590 and HPK/2013/0268 on the site, officers have determined not to confirm it.”

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The two planning cases date from 2004 and 2013 respectively, relating to a new “mixed use development incorporating offices, food and drink and assembly and leisure.”

Although their expiry dates are given as 2008 and 2016, the council says that work previously undertaken on the site had activated permissions permanently.

However, the documents related to HPK/2004/0590 appear to have only been published on the council’s website on July 7, 2022.

Among them is an assessment of trees and habitats on the land from 2004, which records the likely presence of nesting birds and makes recommendations to retain some trees and remove others.

The report notes: “The important tree cover on and adjacent to the site can be retained substantially intact. The existing mature wooded setting to the site will be retained.”