A HOUSING developer has blamed the Covid-19 pandemic on a delay to felling trees in preparation for a 750-home development, however the


has discovered a document showing that the work should never have begun this month. As previously reported in the Gazette, members of the public complained that Vistry Homes Thames Valley was planning to fell trees along the A30 during bird nesting season.

The work was due to start on Monday, May 18 at the Hounsome Fields site.

The Gazette questioned the legality of the work for going against the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which states trees should not be felled between March and August because of nesting birds.

We were then informed by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council that the work has been delayed whilst the developer checks it has a licence to fell trees in relation to nesting birds. Vistry Homes said that the work is “temporarily on hold” because of the coronavirus lockdown.

However, a document submitted as part of Vistry Homes’ planning application for the works states that tree felling should not take place between March and August, meaning it should have either started before the country went into lockdown, or not until September.

The landscape and woodland management plan, submitted by Vistry Homes in November last year, says: “It is an offence to disturb nesting wild birds and their nests, bats and bat roosts and dormouse under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. All UK bats and dormice are also European protected species under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.”

It adds: “Any removal / tree works should not be carried out during the bird nesting season (March – August inclusive).”

The Gazette has made numerous attempts to contact the developer and ask questions about this work, but the only response we have received was to say the work is delayed because a dormouse licence is being revised as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown. A spokesperson for Vistry said: "Due to delays caused by the coronavirus lockdown, the clearance works that were due to start on Monday 18th May, have been delayed. We are in discussions with Natural England over the Dormouse License that has been granted to fell the trees, to clarify the method of working our arboriculture contractor will have to follow.

"We are aware of concerns raised by members of the public and have been working very closely with both Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council and Hampshire County Council to find a suitable solution to the issue and this is hoped to be concluded in the next few days.

"We apologise to those members of the community who are keen to see this work completed and much needed new homes delivered."

Natural England has told the Gazette it has nothing to do with the licence.

The Gazette understands that the work has been delayed until September, after the bird nesting season, however Vistry Homes has not confirmed this.

Jenny Levy, a resident from Kempshott who complained about the timing of the work, said: “If there had not been a fuss the developer would probably have just gone ahead with the works now.”