Dorset Council is being urged to take legal action against developers who mistakenly knocked down an ancient hedgerow on the edge of Bridport.

The vegetation is located near Vearse Farm which is set for 760 new homes in the Foundry Lea scheme, just off West Road.

Plans have been controversial with locals for some time and gained planning permission in August, but developers have been blasted after contractors knocked down the foliage – which they did not even own.

The vegetation was instead planted on land belonging to Sir Philip Colfox, who said he was “deeply saddened” by what had happened.

Barratt Homes and Vistry Group were forced to publicly apologise following the incident, which they put down to a “communication failure”, adding they will be replacing the removed elements “as soon as possible”.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News:

Scene before the hedge (on the left) was removed  Picture by Malcolm Dowty


Bridport campaign group, ADVEARSE, has now called on Dorset Council to launch a probe into the incident and “take legal action” against developers.

“The developers’ claim that they will put this destruction right is laughable,” it said.

“Dorset Council must launch its own investigation and take legal action against the developers to ensure that this transgression does not go unpunished.”

The news has also been met with concern from local councillors, including Bridport town councillor Sarah Carney.

“They [developers] said it was an accident and that they are sorry – but this is the first time they have broken soil since planning permission was granted and they do not even know what is their land. It does not bode well for the future,” she said.

“The loss of a decades old hedgerow is absolutely devastating and irreplaceable, and really quite upsetting.”

She added: “People have come to terms with the fact that the development is going ahead. The local population have tried everything to stop it, including a judicial review.

“Residents are just concerned about whether they will honour everything in the agreement. It is going to make people nervous.

“The developers have been really transparent but my response is based on the fact that residents are upset. It is a mistake; it is very unfortunate – the most important thing is how can it be properly rectified and how can Dorset Council assure us that they will be holding the developers to account?”

Leader of Bridport Town Council, Cllr Dave Rickard, said in a statement he would be seeking “further clarity” on the matter.

“The loss of mature trees and hedgerow on this scale, irreparably damages wildlife habitats and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for a long time, and it is unclear how this damage can be rectified,” he said.

“We will be meeting with the developers to obtain further clarity on this, along with absolute reassurances for the future.”

A spokesperson on behalf of Barratt Homes and Vistry Group confirmed it will be ensuring “additional ecological and arboricultural enhancements” at the site in a joint statement with Sir Philip Colfox.

“We are sorry for the unplanned removal of some of the hedging at our Foundry Lea development due to a breakdown in communications between the consortium, its environmental consultant, and the groundworks team.

“We will replace the removed elements as quickly as possible and aim to have this completed over the dormant season.

“Both consortium partners take nature conservation extremely seriously and we will make changes to ensure this issue does not happen again.”

Sir Philip added: “I am deeply saddened by what has happened but most grateful to Barratt and Vistry for so quickly admitting the blunder and offering their fulsome apologies and promise to put everything right.”

Dorset Council has been contacted for comment.