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Wembdon Parklands – Legal update from Sedgemoor District Council

The below message has been received from Melanie Wellman, the Assistant Director (Legal and Governance) at Sedgemoor District Council.

 

The background to this matter is that the Council entered into a deed of covenant with Beazer Homes on 22 October 2003. The reason for this covenant was that the Council wished to protect the badger sets and provide foraging areas for the badgers on the site. This document required Beazer to observe and perform certain covenants, the main requirement being not to use the Badger Foraging Area for any purpose save as an open space and badger protection area. It also restricts any building on the site or the carrying out of development on the badger protection area. In terms of landscaping, the Deed of Covenant requires that the approval of the Council is obtained.

The Parish Council is now the owner of the site and is therefore bound by these covenants. As the District Council imposed this covenant, it is for us to determine whether any works proposed by the Parish Council breach that covenant and if so, whether or not to enforce the covenant. As the District Council imposed the covenant, this is entirely at our discretion and even if there were a breach, it is at our discretion as to whether there is sufficient harm to justify the Council taking further action under the Deed of Covenant.

The Council has looked carefully at the background to this matter and why the covenant was put in place. This was to prevent any housing being built on the site, to ensure the area was maintained as open space for the benefit of the public and to ensure that anything carried out on the site does not adversely affect the badger community.

There are certain activities on the site that require planning permission, namely for CCTV and lighting columns and these are being processed in the normal way. A copy of the correspondence that has been sent into the Council has been forwarded to the planning officer and any representations will be taken into account when determining the application.

In  terms of the covenant, the Council is satisfied that the works being proposed on the site are in line with the covenant and in reaching this conclusion we have heavily relied upon the advice of the County Ecologist to ensure that what is being proposed will not have any detrimental effect on the badger community.

In terms of landscaping, the Landscape Officer is happy that nothing has been carried out on site which would not amount to good tree “husbandry” and which we would not have approved. The Landscape Officer has also confirmed that any activities that amount to general maintenance of the landscaping on the site, would not require our consent in any event.

Contrary to what is being stated in leaflets being circulated in the local area, Sedgemoor District Council is not in breach of covenant. Sedgemoor is not carrying out any works on the site.  The works are being carried out by the Parish Council, who have duly consulted with the District Council, Secret World and the County Ecologist to ensure that the proposals do not have any detrimental impact upon the badger community and are not in breach of the covenant.

In terms of the pathways, the original pathways were approved by the Council when the covenant was imposed. The ongoing maintenance of those pathways, including repairing or renewing those pathways, would not require any further consent from the Council and is not a breach of the Deed of Covenant.

This land has always been identified as public open space and remains so. No development that adversely impacts on this function and the use for foraging, will or has been allowed.  The area is also identified as a local green space in the neighbourhood plan further protecting it in planning terms. The modest works proposed by the Parish Council for improved accessibility, new planting etc, will only seek to enhance the amenity value to residents.

Any questions about the works themselves should be referred to the Parish Council who own the land and are implementing the scheme.

Any representations regarding the planning application should be passed to the Development Management section : development.management@sedgemoor.gov.uk and will be taken into account when a decision is made.

I trust the above helps to clarify the District Council’s position in this matter.

Yours sincerely

Melanie Wellman

Assistant Director (Legal and Governance)

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