Controversy has erupted over a planning proposal that has been accused of “bulldozing” a wildlife haven in Chiddingfold without permission. 

The site in Chiddingfold, on Mill Lane, has been used by walkers and treated as a common by the last owner for the past 20 years. 

The proposal to erect a stable block, fence and gate and make alterations to the driveway and replace the entry gates is now under investigation by Waverley’s Planning Enforcement team after claims it has begun without approval.

One objector said: “Under normal circumstances an application of this sort would not be subject to an objection, provided due legal process was followed. This is not the case here as the applicant has proceeded without permission and has done serious environmental damage to the land.” 

Another objector said the development was “everything a local council should exist to prevent”. 

He added: “The applicant has started work before it has been approved and bulldozed the hill beyond the application’s boundaries, dramatically altering the public amenity value of the land from the public footpaths, and hugely reduced the biodiversity carrying capacity of the area.

“At least 100 trees have been removed without permission and the ground scrubbed and graded. It has been done in a period of extreme wetness – presumably to avoid public notice – and has left deep furrows across the hillside. I would like to object to the furtherance of this application considering the flagrant disregard of process, disrespect of the council, and abuse of the local community.” 

A churchwarden of St Mary’s Church claims the Habitat Survey is “defective” as it did not survey the North Field where most of the development is planned.

He adds: “This land is designated as an Area of Great Landscape Value, a Biodiversity Opportunity Area, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and part of the Chiddingfold Greenbelt. 

“The churchyard has been managed as a haven for visitors and serves as a wildlife refuge and a site for the rare and endangered Wood White butterfly, and other species, making the loss of biodiversity to areas next to the churchyard a serious concern.”