Second Gladman planning application for fields near Therfield Heath rejected

A barn owl snapped over the fields Gladman proposed to build on in Royston.

A barn owl snapped over the fields Gladman proposed to build on in Royston. - Credit: David Hatton

The application to build 99 homes near Therfield Heath has been unanimously refused, much to the relief of campaigners, wildlife enthusiasts and many residents of Royston. 

Land agent Gladman submitted the application to build homes on the south-west edge of the town near Echo Hill, opposite Therfield Heath.

The vast Therfield and Royston landmark comprises of common land, a Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is a haven for wildlife - as is the nearby area, including the fields Gladman applied to build on.

The land agent’s new submission made on April 1 last year included up to 40 per cent ‘affordable housing’,  introduction of structural planting and landscaping,  surface water flood mitigation and vehicular access point via the demolition of an existing property on Echo Hill. 

North Herts District Council's planning committee voted unanimously on Monday evening to reject the application.

Reasons for rejection had been raised through the relentless work of the Royston Says No to Gladman campaigners. 

Royston Says No To Gladman campaigner and resident Mr Bubbins with billboard campaigning against the

Campaigner David Bubbins - one of the members of of Royston Says No to Gladman - Credit: Archant

The group's Ray Munden said: "There were many concerns about the appallingly bad access, but perhaps the most to benefit from the refusal is the wildlife that would have been displaced.

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"Appropriately the very next morning a fox, often a frequent visitor but absent for a few months, peered from the field into the garden of a resident as if to say thank you for saving my field.

"Badgers that forage on the fields every single night will no doubt also be very happy."

Keen birder and photographer David Hatton, from Royston, was also pleased the application was rejected, and shared a snap of a barn owl on the fields in question.

About the picture, he told the Crow: "Here's a lovely barn owl I spotted hunting over the field in question at dusk only a few weeks ago - the photo, taken from the bridleway below the water pumping station, shows the rear of Echo Hill gardens in the background, adjacent to where Gladman propose to flatten a house to gain entry to the field.

The land off Echo Hill is a wildlife haven.

The land off Echo Hill is a wildlife haven. - Credit: Ray Munden

"Rough undeveloped fields like this are much loved by birds of prey, such as owls, hawks & falcons, as they hold small mammals and birds to hunt."

Royston Town Council also objected to the application in July 2020. The town mayor, Councillor Rob Inwood, said the development was “unsustainable and unsuitable” and that committee chair, Councillor Marguerite Phillips said “this application shouldn’t ever come to us again".

The application came two years after a previous attempt by Gladman to built an estate on the land. The  proposal to build 120 homes on the same site, was later revised to 107 homes and was refused in early 2019.

The land off Echo Hill is a wildlife haven.

The land off Echo Hill is a wildlife haven. - Credit: Alan Linsdell

At the meeting on Monday evening the latest planning application was discussed at length.

 Melanie Hill, who live next door to the property that would've been demolished to allow access to the development, gave an impassioned speech representing the campaign group - and the 450 residents who objected to the application.

Her speech to the meeting included: "This application is worse in terms of access, planning balance and sustainability than the previous one.

"Our barristers have helpfully written to you regarding various areas you should consider - including some aspects they believe to have been unlawful - and all our arguments are based upon planning law, planning balance and sustainability.

"Imagine living next door to a two-story building, being demolished for a major access road, with (at one point) less than one-metre distance to your property. That is what is being proposed."

"God forbid my child was injured (or worse) whilst this was happening for simply being in their own house or garden. I wonder where the liability would fall. Gladman knows safe and adequate access can’t be achieved - that’s why they offered to purchase both my property and  the other adjoining property.

"To be crystal clear; Gladman do not have ownership of all the land they need. Access cannot be a reserved matter.

"On this aspect alone this application should be refused."

The Crow has contacted Gladman for comment, but did not received one before going to press.