Long-running Legal Battle Over Roswell Pits Looks Set To Continue

PUBLISHED: 16:48 03 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:35 04 May 2010

CONCRETE, hardcore and cables were the topics of the day at the council chambers on Tuesday, as nature campaigners and the council went head to head with Roswell Pits owner Jeremy Tyrrell. Mr Tyrrell, who owns a Stevenage-based marina company, bought the

CONCRETE, hardcore and cables were the topics of the day at the council chambers on Tuesday, as nature campaigners and the council went head to head with Roswell Pits owner Jeremy Tyrrell.

Mr Tyrrell, who owns a Stevenage-based marina company, bought the pits in 2006 and has been locked in a long-running battle with the authorities ever since.

Concerned that he was putting in electricity, water, telecommunications and CCTV facilities in order to create permanent boat moorings on the pit, the council's enforcement team told him to remove a 300m trench, cables and concrete or face legal action.

"We would contend that some of that work constitutes development, which should be the subject of a planning application," said enforcement officer Andy Smith.

Mr Tyrrell decided to take the council to an appeal - which will be decided by planning inspector Katharine Peerless following an informal hearing held on Tuesday.

When the area was designated as a botanical and ecological Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England in June, Mr Tyrrell found himself increasingly constrained by regulations and claims he has been unable to carry out regular work at the pits.

He has to apply to Natural England in order to bring tractors or dredgers onto the site and has been advised to do so by prescribed routes, to avoid damaging the natural beauty of the area.

The pit owner still remains tight-lipped about the future of the site and claims 'countryside moorings' will eventually be created, not a full-scale operation the size of the existing Cathedral marina.

Despite buying the pits, for what was rumoured to be more than the asking price in September 2006, Mr Tyrrell has never submitted a planning application to carry out work or informed planners of his intentions for the site.

More than 20 members of the Local Campaign for the Protection of Rural Ely attended the meeting and were allowed to offer their comments during proceedings.

The campaign has more than 1,000 members and aims to keep the area as a wild space dedicated to the protection of wildlife. Its chairman, Andrew Balmford, a professor of conservation science at Cambridge University, said: "I would question whether the natural environment would recover on the area where you have put hardcore - and get the vegetation that we had there before."

Barrister for the Local Campaign for the Protection of Rural Ely, Cain Ormondroyd, pointed out that Mr Tyrrell's lawyers had yet to quote the relevant law for to justify an appeal. "The appellant has not shown any reasons why he should be allowed to retain the benefits of development which has taken place with flagrant disregard for the planning control system and the ecology of the site alike," he added.

Sue Austen, who as a Liberal Democrat councillor for Ely has campaigned to save Roswell Pits, was also in the audience and said her party were "keeping a close eye on what was going on."

An outcome is expected by April 2009.

WHAT DO YOU THINK/

Are you concerned about open spaces and the future of wildlife areas such as Roswell Pits. Write to: the Ely Standard, 38 Market Street, Ely, CB7 4LS or email: editor@ely-standard.co.uk

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