Badgers at Northampton housing development to be protected by planning ruling after new setts discovered

Council became aware animals may have returned to the site on Lancaster Way earlier this year

By Sol Buckner, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 29th April 2021, 3:46 pm

A variation to a planning condition for a housing development in Northampton has been approved to protect part of the site where badgers were suspected to have dug new setts.

The condition relates to the site at Lancaster Way where planning permission was approved for 139 homes in 2017.

A meeting of the Interim Planning Committee for the Northampton area of West Northamptonshire Council on Tuesday (April 27) heard work had started on site and a number of properties since completed.

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Last July, an application was approved in principle subject to the completion of a section 106 agreement for the variation of conditions relating to building work on the development.

Also it was approved to remove the condition concerning the ecological mitigation in respect of badgers as the developer had acquired a licence from Natural England allowing work on site.

But earlier this year, the council became aware badgers may have returned to the site.

Planning officer Hannah West said: "Following publication of the committee report, the council became aware that there was an area of land on the site where badgers may have returned since the main setts were closed.

Badgers are thought to have returned to the housing development on Lancaster Way, Northampton

"This area is under monitoring. It has been fenced off and there is no building work occuring in this specific area.

"With the badgers potentially returning to the site, it is now proposed to instead of removing condition 16, to reword it to require the same details but for the amended area."

The report states the amendment to condition 16 to apply to this new area of land is worded as follows:

"No works shall occur within or along the areas marked in blue as the Wildlife Protection Area as shown within plan SK-BHH-001 until one of the following has been submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority: (a) A licence issued by Natural England pursuant to Section 10 of The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 authorising the specified activity/development to go ahead or '(b) A statement in writing from a suitably qualified ecologist to the effect that they do not consider that the specified activity/development will require a licence."

The application under consideration by the committee on Tuesday was approved in principal by committee on July 28, last year.

Ms West continued: "However, since this time, earlier this year badgers were suspected to have dug new holes on the northern boundary of the site.

"The police and Natural England have been involved in the investigation of this and there is a section of land, a new section, which is fenced off on the site whilst badger monitoring occurs and whilst they discuss with Natural England a new licence.

"A new licence is likely to be needed from Natural England to close this sett. And as such it is considered appropriate to retain condition 16 but for this to be updated for the new section of land where the badgers now are.

"The council's ecologist has been consulted on this and are happy with the amended wording and amended plan for this condition. It has also been discussed with Natural England who advise that as current they have no legal involvement in the site.

"So the only change to the scheme from when committee last assessed it, is the slight alteration to condition 16 and the only change to that is the section of land being protected and this is because there is a new location where badgers may be on the site now."

Sally Jones, of Northamptonshire Badger Group, told the committee: "The group is requesting there is an amendment to this condition and that there is an ongoing duty of the developer to discharge items (a) and (b) if any future badger activity such as new setts are seen anywhere on site and to do this until all building work is complete to the plan."

Peter Frampton, agent for the applicant and town planning consultant, said: "In my submission there has been no material change in planning circumstances, not withstanding what you have heard from the first speaker, regarding the principle of the development and the layout of the site and the design of the site.

"The principle of design remains appropriate particularly in the context of the planning permission granted in 2017.

"The site is needed to contribute towards housing land supply and development has ocurred onsite pursuant to the granting of planning permission.

"Hence, it is entirely appropriate as your officer states, that the committee report focuses only on the change relating to condition 16."