Residents lose fight over orchard

Images of fruit bearing trees and bluebells in the odl orchard were submitted by resident campaigner Iain Simpson.
Images of fruit bearing trees and bluebells in the odl orchard were submitted by resident campaigner Iain Simpson.
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NORTH Kesteven District Councillors agonised over plans for 100 new homes that will be built on part of an historic orchard.

The planning committee finally decided they had no option but to permit the partial re-plan of one phase of development on the former Rauceby Hospital site at Greylees, put forward by David Wilson Homes.

The scheme amends previous permissions, increasing the number of properties in that phase from 63 to 100 homes including landscaping, parking and open space. Eventually meaning the entire Greylees site would contain 725 homes.

Part of the development will be on the southern part of the old orchard belonging to the mental hospital. But residents, represented by Iain Simpson, argued at the meeting that, although the northern portion will be restored and preserved as a public open space, the other half was far from neglected and dead. He cast doubt on the quality of the ecological survey provided by the developer, providing images and footage of fruit-bearing trees, protected species of hedgehogs, British bluebells, great crested newt and Muntjac deer that populated the area, which had become valued by residents as a local amenity.

He argued that its wild nature was what attracted the species and claimed much of the designated open space in Greylees was currently inaccessible.

There were 25 letters of objection and a 155 name e-petition.

Councillors took on board the arguments and will use planning conditions to press for play equipment and open space on the site, as well as ensuring a scheme is in place for preserving protected species. However, residents would need to monitor and report any breaches to the police themselves.

Principal planning officer Phillip Rowson pointed out the orchard site already had planning permission and this new scheme would only increase the number of homes on that section by one. Most homes will be four and five bedroom properties.

Councillors were generally concerned about the lack of play areas with equipment and amenities such as a bus service, trains and a shop and insisted more pressure should be placed on the developers to progress with the derelict central core of the hospital building. It was even cited that house buyers were being put off by the lack of services.

Coun Marion Brighton warned: “With these big old buildings we should not let big developers take the money from building new properties without dealing with the rest.”

Members considered deferring their decision to give themselves more bargaining power over this, but this was rejected.

Ward councillor Mark Allan was sympathetic to’ views about the landscape but insisted the old permission still stood anyway. But Coun Ian Dolby disagreed, claiming the developers kept ‘moving the goalposts’ and removing more trees and risking fines for digging up bluebells.