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Horror as hedge in Sawston is slashed down during nesting season





A scientist says she “could not believe what she saw” after a hedge in Sawston was chopped down during the nesting season.

Esther Musgrave-Brown, a molecular biologist from Trumpington, has cycled past the hedge on her way to and from work at Granta Park and Babraham for the 15 years, but it was cut down by developers last week.

The hedge that has been cut down on Babraham Road in Sawston during the nesting season. Picture: Keith Heppell
The hedge that has been cut down on Babraham Road in Sawston during the nesting season. Picture: Keith Heppell

Redrow South Midlands is building 280 new homes at Tudor Meadow, including 72 affordable homes. There are two new vehicular accesses from Babraham Road and a section 278 county highways condition required the developer to reduce the hedge to 0.6 metres high for the visibility splay at the site accesses.

Esther filmed the aftermath of the hedge works on Twitter and it has prompted an outcry.

The hedge that has been cut down on Babraham Road in Sawston. Picture: Keith Heppell
The hedge that has been cut down on Babraham Road in Sawston. Picture: Keith Heppell

She said: “I cycle past the hedge to and from work every day and I saw that the whole thing had been chopped down. The hedge is full of life and birds singing loudly and it is important for pollinators. I’ve cycled past it since 2008 so that’s a lot of joy I have had from it, and lots of other people enjoy it.

“I could not believe what I saw and I felt I had to do something. I filmed it on my phone and posted a tweet and it has spiralled from there – Chris Packham retweeted it. We are in a biodiversity crisis and the message about species decline is getting through. We have Wild Isles on television with David Attenborough showing us what we are losing.

The hedge that has been cut down on Babraham Road in Sawston close to Redrow South Midlands Tudor Meadow development. Picture: Keith Heppell
The hedge that has been cut down on Babraham Road in Sawston close to Redrow South Midlands Tudor Meadow development. Picture: Keith Heppell

“My understanding is that the removal of the hedge was not in the original plans but was in a section 278 condition. Redrow said they checked the hedge for nests but birds also use it to perch and to shelter from predators.

“Some have said that the hedge will grow back but what happens to all those species that use it in the meantime? I have also seen reports that the hedge is to be maintained at 0.6 metres, which I hope we can get reversed. Why was the removal of the hedge necessary, and what other options were considered? Did it have to be as harsh as this? Did they have to do it now? It was the most brutal response at the worst time of the year. I have talked to other users of the path, people walking their dogs, and they are horrified.”

She said she would speak to any councillors or council officers who can explain why the work was required and why it was done now.

She added: “I have to cycle past those stumps twice a day. I am happy to meet anyone who can help me to understand why this has happened and to make positive changes so that something as extreme as this doesn’t happen again.”

The hedge that has been cut down on Babraham Road in Sawston. Picture: Keith Heppell
The hedge that has been cut down on Babraham Road in Sawston. Picture: Keith Heppell

Redrow South Midlands said it has been “working closely” with South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and Sawston Parish Council.

Philip Clark, technical director, said: “To meet the highway authority’s requirements and to ensure the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles, we were required to lower the height of the hedge. This was carried out in agreement with the councils and a full survey was undertaken by an ecologist prior to the work beginning to confirm no birds were nesting.

“While works were planned to fall outside of bird nesting season, we were unable to secure the required approvals any sooner.

“We have worked hard to ensure an overall enhancement in habitats for birds and wildlife on the development. There will be an overall net gain in biodiversity, with new wildflower, hedge and tree planting, including a community orchard and the creation of wetland areas.”

Cllr Brian Milnes, local member for Sawston and Shelford at the county council, said: “Following planning permission, the county council formed an agreement with the developer, Redrow. As part of this highway works agreement, Redrow were required to lower the hedge to make sure there was safe access for both the traffic using the site and those travelling on the highway. Before the hedge was cut back, we understand Redrow carried out a survey and no birds were nesting.

“We will continue to work with Redrow to see if anything can be planted further along the verge at an appropriate time.”



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