I wanted to update Church Hill residents on assistance I am providing to unlock an issue related to the building of new flats at the old doctor’s surgery site on Tanhouse Lane.

The developer at the site has discovered evidence of bats in residence in the attic space at the building and as duly stopped work. I welcome the developer acting in a responsible way to protect the bats and for following due process for their safe removal.

Owing to the pandemic a backlog of work has built up in a number of government departments, including Natural England who are responsible ultimately for giving consent via a licence to remove (carefully) any bats that are discovered on a site such as this.

The problem with a backlog at this time is how it would impact on the site and the works underway. A prolonged delay risks the viability of the project and there was a very real danger that all work could stop and never restart, leaving residents in Church Hill with a building site for an unknown period of time. Clearly this would be an unacceptable situation for residents.

On discovery of this issue I felt it was important to get the application escalated for urgent attention. I therefore wrote to our Member of Parliament, Rachel Maclean, who agreed to write to Natural England to ask them to prioritise this application.

I am pleased to report that Natural England have assessed the urgency case and agreed that it meets requirements for escalation, which they have now done. I cannot pretend to understand the mechanisms and licences for bat removal, but I am now reassured by Natural England (via our MP) and the developer on site that things are moving forwards again.

I will continue to keep abreast of the progress on the site and am ready to provide any additional assistance needed to ensure the development is a success.

I promised in 2018 that I would ensure the old surgery site would be moved on to be something better than an empty building, and I am determined to deliver on that promise. I want to pay thanks to the previous site owners for all their work to sell the site – I know it has taken a massive toll on them and has been a hellish experience for them. We should all be grateful to them for their efforts. I also want to offer a thank you to the current developer for taking the project on.