Councillor calls for sanctions against 'obvious wrongdoing' by builder

Dairy Farm House, 18 Prickwillow Road, Queen Adelaide

Dairy Farm House, 18 Prickwillow Road, Queen Adelaide, Ely, sold at auction earlier this year. Now subject to planning issues for use as a builder's yard - Credit: Cheffins

A councillor wants “severe sanctions” against a builder who has withdrawn a retrospective application to use his land as a builder’s yard.  

Jamie Johnson also withdrew a second application to replace the house he bought at auction for £329,000 in March.  

Cllr Simon Harries told East Cambs Council that if they do not take action, it would be rewarding the man for his “obvious wrongdoing”.  

Cllr Harries made his comments in response by the applications for Dairy Farm House, Prickwillow Road, Queen Adelaide.  

Planning officer Holly Chapman explained to Mr Johnson there were so many issues involved it was best to re-submit with amendments.  

She said the proposed new home was unacceptable in terms of its size and would be of a scale and bulk “uncharacteristic” for the village.  

The land surrounding it had been stripped and she wondered why an ecological or arboriculture report was not included.  

Planning application (withdrawn) for Dairy Farm House

Planning application (withdrawn) for Dairy Farm House. Picture shows the gate that has been erected - Credit: ECDC

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“The proposals fall exceptionally short of being able to demonstrate a significant biodiversity net gain, which is of itself a reason for refusal,” she said.   

“The application proposals state that 100+ tonnes of hardcore and other materials have been deposited on the site, but no certificate has been provided to demonstrate where this material has originated from.” 

Planners “cannot therefore conclude that the site is safe for residential purposes, and this forms another reason for refusal”. 

Planning application (withdrawn) for Dairy Farm House

Planning application (withdrawn) for Dairy Farm House. Picture shows the yard gate - Credit: ECDC

Mr Johnson had submitted a retrospective change of use application to allow a builder's yard, new boundary fencing, and two double gates.   

Cllr Harries said: “If the council does not apply severe sanctions to people who demonstrate an absolute lack of concern and interest in these critically important environmental policies, then they should not be rewarded for their obvious wrongdoing.  

“The actions taken were extreme and very damaging to an important area of animal and plant diversity.   

“The damage done cannot be easily restored.”   

He said a mature setting for wildlife has been used for landfill “and there appears to be no clarity as to what kind of materials were dumped here.   

“Further loads of hardcore or rubble have passed through this site in recent months, and we cannot be certain that such material was not also buried here.   

“I am aware that planning remains an intensely scrutinised and sensitive topic, and that there is a ready assumption in favour of any applicant likely to have a business reason for using land in a particular way.   

“Having said that, the planning department has a duty to uphold the council’s core policies.   

“This application has caused great damage in all of these aspects of policy.   

“He has destroyed mature trees, razed to the ground an area rich in insect, plant and animal life, and attempted to destroy hedgerows in the breeding season for birds.”  

Cllr Harries believes the council should require “full restoration of the damage done to date”.  

He added: “The point we need to remember is that the council is struggling to meet difficult but absolutely necessary environmental targets. 

“Every single action taken by careless, thoughtless and greedy people makes meeting these vital targets harder.   

Planning application (withdrawn) for Dairy Farm House

Planning application (withdrawn) for Dairy Farm House - Credit: ECDC

“Wrong doers must be confronted and penalised, with all such actions made very public to deter future wrongdoing.”  

A neighbour told planners the former Victorian farmhouse was previously surrounded by a mature garden.  

There was little traffic and the gardens were extensive and “contained many micro-habitats, mature trees and a pond.   

“The owner, even when he had moved to a hospice continued to have the garden maintained.”  

Planning application (withdrawn) for Dairy Farm House

Planning application (withdrawn) for Dairy Farm House. Above photo was submitted to ECDC by Jamie Johnson, the owner - Credit: ECDC

 After his death, the property was auctioned and Mr Johnson was successful in taking ownership   

He began development work immediately.  

“Almost all the vegetation in the garden was removed,” he said.  

“A hedgerow was grubbed up and a fence erected. The topsoil in the garden was scraped back and several hundred tons of waste was buried. Some topsoil was abstracted and the remainder put back on top of the spoil.”  

The neighbour said enforcement officers pointed out to Mr Johnson that the development had not been approved.