Peterborough homeowner at centre of ‘ancient wildlife corridor’ planning row appeals decision forcing him to tear down wall

The wall which has been ordered to be torn down
The wall which has been ordered to be torn down
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A Peterborough homeowner told to tear down a wall at his home has confirmed he will appeal the decision.

In February, city councillors voted to protect what was described as an ‘ancient wildlife corridor’ after land at the rear of Grimshaw Road in Park ward had been built on.

The wall which has been ordered to be torn down

The wall which has been ordered to be torn down

A retrospective planning application had been made by Mohammed Ulhaq for a brick wall he had built on a small piece of land at the rear of his home at  Grimshaw Road.

The application was refused, and Mr Ulhaq was told he must either tear down his wall or appeal the decision.

Described at the time to members of the Planning and Environmental Protection Committee as ‘2m of land illegally taken by the homeowner’, it now seems the ownership of the land is in question.

The land is unregistered and therefore has not been ‘taken illegally’ until its exact status can be established.

It was also described to members as ‘2m of land’, however, while the length of the wall is in excess of 2m, the piece of land it sits on is barely 60cm (one brick width) wide.

Mr Ulhaq, while present at the meeting, was not allowed to speak or defend his position because he had not applied to the council to do so in time.

Subsequently, he has now lodged an appeal against the refusal on the grounds that the land has not been ‘taken’ nor has it been done so ‘illegally’, nor is there evidence of badgers using an ‘ancient wildlife corridor’.

Speaking at his home, Mr Ulhaq said: “The members of the planning committee made their decision after being given lots of false and misleading information.

“Yes I have built a brick wall at the end of my garden, and I did not apply for planning permission; but it absolutely does not block off any wildlife corridor, if one even exists there.

“Firstly, the primary speaker at the meeting, Mr Richard Olive – who describes himself as the founder of the ‘Grimshaw Road Wildlife Action Group’, doesn’t even live in Grimshaw Road.

“He said that ‘local residents, angry at the abuse of planning rules and the potential harm it may cause to wildlife in the area, had organised themselves into an action group’. 

“I’ve been up and down Grimshaw Road talking with all of my neighbours, many of whom I’ve known for years since my family moved in, and none of them are ‘members’ of this action group – in fact, the only member of the group that I can find is Mr Olive himself.

“Only one of my neighbours showed any signs of dissent at the wall, and they live at the very far end of Grimshaw Road where their garden doesn’t even back onto this so-called ‘corridor’.

“Secondly, in his letter to the council objecting to the wall Mr Olive says that ‘it irreparably damages a small but important piece of semi-natural habitat that forms an important screen between Grimshaw Road and the playing fields belonging to Thomas Deacon Academy’.

“But this is inaccurate because the piece of land isn’t owned by anybody. I checked with the council, the Land Registry and with Thomas Deacon Academy and they confirmed to me that they do not own the land which is simply a small piece of unregistered scrub, between two old fences.

“When I moved into my house the area at the back of the fence was strewn with rubbish from many years where people have simply thrown it away. When I built my wall I cleared away the rusting old wire of the fence, the stinging nettles and brambles and removed all of that rubbish from behind the fence.

“Thirdly, Mr Olive goes on to say ‘the presence of numerous native plant and animal species, including hedgehogs and badgers, means that this [wall] …damages their habitat and prevents free movement throughout the corridor’. But again, nothing could be further from the truth.

“I love wildlife. I have children who love wild animals. They learn about British wildlife at school, so I went to great lengths studying what to do on the internet to ensure that hedgehogs have full and proper access both through, around and past my wall, as is clearly demonstrated by the photographs that have been taken.

“The holes that I deliberately constructed in my wall are clearly at or even just below ground level, providing proper access into and out of the wall.

“Not only that, but with the area of litter-strewn scrub that was there when I erected the wall now cleared away, any wildlife has completely unhindered access to this ‘corridor’ in front of or behind the wall.”

“One of the reasons the committee members refused the retrospective planning application was on the grounds that the wall is ‘poorly built’ and ‘an eyesore’. I feel very upset about this.

“I accept that I’m not a builder, and I did build the wall myself. But I have a degree in engineering from the University of Sheffield. I even went out and bought special reclaimed engineering bricks so the wall would ‘fit in’ with the character of the rest of the house.

“While I have to accept that the wall may be ‘amateur’ in its design and build, it is not poorly constructed and certainly not an eyesore.

“Nobody other than the committee members has complained about it, and it has stood the test of several summers and winters now since being erected.”

Mr Ulhaq’s appeal against the decision to refuse his retrospective planning application will be heard after the local elections have taken place.

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