Residents' misery after disruption on former Butterfly World site
- Credit: SkyPhocal
Five years on from the closure of wildlife tourist attraction Butterfly World, and the site is once again mired in controversy.
For much of the past year the car park at the 27-acre Green Belt location has apparently been used for industrial use, overseen by a company called Convene Construction Ltd which granted consent for the site to be used by businesses including scaffolders and car sales.
According to residents the rural site is now covered with a variety of vehicles, including trucks, cars and vans, plus fairground rides and portable cabins, with excessive traffic into Miriam Lane and noise disturbance day and night in what is essentially a residential area.
When planning permission was granted for Butterfly World in 2005, it was on the condition that it could only be used for purposes directly related to the use of the site for horticulture, horticultural training, research, butterfly keeping and for visits by the public, and it would be returned to its original state should the venue ever close.
And after Butterfly World closed its doors at the end of 2015, owners the Breheny Group told the Herts Advertiser there were no plans to either sell or develop the site.
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In December 2019 Convene Construction applied to have the adjoining land excluded from the Green Belt under the SADC Local Plan Examination – “The Broad Locations For Development”. It was not approved by the district council.
Retrospective permission for the facility to operate car/van collection, storage and delivery for a 12 month period was finally refused by SADC's planning referrals committee last week following delays caused by the pandemic. It was deemed an inappropriate Green Belt development without very special circumstances for approval. This application states the land is still owned by Breheny.
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Neighbours have hit out at the industrial activity on the former wildlife site.
Robert Bolt, of Forge End, said: "I am upset about the lack of enforcement by SADC of the original planning condition that if Butterfly World failed the site would be restored to its previous condition.
"Failure to enforce at an early stage has led to the present illegal use of the site. This is causing much distress to residents of Long Fallow and adjacent streets. Unless this latest development is nipped in the bud the old Butterfly World site will offer an excuse for additional housing development in this area, which is outside the current Strategic Plan."
Fiona Stevens of Long Fallow said: "It’s been getting busier and busier and it seems now there are 24 hour activities with spotlights on at night.
"Cars, lorries, car transporters and shipping containers seem to be coming and going at all times of the day and night. There are regular sounds of heavy machinery and it looks like buildings and been constructed."
Sam and Gwyn Cross, also of Long Fallow, fumed: “What began as a tourist attraction is now a blot on the landscape with disruptive 24 hour traffic movements and noisy building work during the night."
Neighbour Sandra Sheldon said: "This is Green Belt land. It should remain as Green Belt land. I used to walk my dogs up Miriam Lane until the gates were locked and they took over.
"There were wild flowers where now there is lorries and rubbish everywhere."
Martin Shuttlewood added: "I live close to the ex-Butterfly World property and have seen a huge increase in traffic and noise along Miriam Lane into the site.
"Convene have a plan on their website for housing on this site. The site is on Green Belt land and Butterfly World was allowed to use this as an exception, so the residents of Chiswell Green expect the site to revert to Green Belt land with the immediate removal of these vehicles and activities."
SADC planning portfolio holder Cllr Jamie Day said that the council's enforcement team is now working its way through the recent activities and uses on the site.
He said: "These will be assessed within the parameters of the local enforcement plan 2017 to see if its expedient to take enforcement action.
"Taking formal planning enforcement action is a complex process which is likely to take some time.
"We are advising residents who are adversely affected by noise or floodlighting from the site to contact the council's environmental compliance team in the first instance."