Larches residents say they have been ‘left traumatised’ after the new owners of Larches House began clearing woodland at the site.Advertisement
The Grade-II listed building and surrounding woodland, off Larches Lane, was sold to Sapphire Utility Solutions in April by Lancashire County Council.
According to a LancsLive interview with owner Michael Patel, the plan is to transform Larches House into luxury apartments, with affordable housing being built elsewhere on site.
Residents say that within two weeks of the sale, contractors were at the site clearing trees. The speed with which the activity has taken place has upset residents, who say the woodland is part of their heritage.
Following reports of work beginning on the site, a Tree Preservation Order was served by the Local Planning Authority on 14 May.
One long-time Larches resident who asked not to be named said: “The new owner has bought the property and land, but no planning permission has gone in, so they’re just clearing the land with total disregard for anybody else.
“We are concerned about the wildlife that’s been disturbed because of this. We had woodpeckers in the trees and bats flying around at night, but we think the majority are now dead or have gone elsewhere.
“I’ve seen bird nests on the floor, and rats and deer that lived in the grounds have been driven into neighbouring gardens.
“More recently the contractors have cordoned off a number of trees that I’m surmising are on the Tree Preservation Order, however we think some trees that should have been protected have already gone.
“Lancashire County Council has said residents should be happy that the house has been sold so there will be no more vandalism, but we’re not happy with the way our heritage is being demolished.
“The woodland has been a part of life for people here on the estate, both young and old, and it’s a real shame to see what they’re doing to it. It is a total disaster for Larches.”
The resident also claims that contractors have been tipping waste nearby.
They said: “I’ve seen contractors coming down in a truck and tipping waste into the ravine. When they saw me videoing they turned around.”
A Facebook group called Larches House Woodland Protection has been set up to campaign against the work. The group has started a petition on change.org and is also fundraising on GoFundMe for legal representation.
Climate Action Preston, which is affiliated with Friends of the Earth, is also involved in the campaign.
The group’s founder, Sonia Phillips, said: “It really concerns us when mature trees are cut down. They take carbon out of the atmosphere, help to clean our air, and provide homes for a huge variety of wildlife.
“The woodland is also loved by local people as a valuable green space where they can walk and play and feel connected to nature, which we know has a positive impact on health and wellbeing.
“We understand that new housing is important, but we feel that consideration of the natural environment must be of prime importance in the planning process. We’re especially worried about this destruction because no planning permission has yet been given for any building work, and so these trees and habitats might have been sacrificed for nothing.”
In a letter to residents, Preston City Council Development Management Team Leader Phil Cousins said: “It is acknowledged that local residents may feel upset by ongoing works that are taking place at Larches House, however at this stage the owner has not breached any planning control.”
The letter also states that the residents’ claims about waste disposal have been reported to Preston City Council’s Waste Enforcement Officer, and that the Lancashire Constabulary Wildlife Protection Officer has visited and spoken to those on site with regards to the complaints about damage to trees and wildlife.
Blog Preston approached Sapphire Utility Solutions for comment but did not receive a response by time of publication.
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What do you think of the work taking place at Larches House? Are you supporting their campaign? Let us know in the comments.