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Council duty to stop unnecessary tree felling

Recently HOT heard from one of our regular readers – a local resident who is passionate about protecting green spaces and trees – that plans have been submitted to the council to fell trees (71 of which have Tree Protection Orders) at Beauport Caravan Park. Chris Hurrell, Bernard McGinley and Zelly Restorick report.

Please take a look at the planning application and read the detailed information given below by Chris Hurrell and Bernard McGinley, who are both very well informed on planning issues.

If you feel you have any objections, please raise them on the council’s planning website. The planning application is here: HS/TP/18/00678 | Various tree works to manage risk to users of site, adjacent highway, relieve structural pressure and allow maintenance of historic boundary wall. | Beauport Holiday Park, The Ridge West, St Leonards-on-sea, TN37 7PP

Insufficient details and lack of consultation

This application from Beauport Park seeks to remove 71 TPO* protected trees from the site and cut 20 trees to around half a metre in height. This will significantly reduce screening and wildlife habitats. It is proposed to use poison on some of the tree stumps to prevent regrowth. No wildlife survey has been commissioned.

*  TPO : Tree Protection Order

Bats are recorded as living within the grounds of Beauport Park. No bat survey has been commissioned.

The removal of so many trees will reduce screening and make the site more visible to the public. Residents of the site are likely to be affected by increased noise and increased levels of pollutants from the busy road.

The application claims that the trees are to be removed because of damage to a border wall, but no specialist evidence has been supplied of this damage.

Section 6 of the Application Form stipulates: ‘written technical advice from an appropriate expert’, including on damage to property.  The damage to the perimeter wall is not further professionally discussed, though saving the wall is said to be a major reason for the works in the Recommendations section of the document called ‘Assessment of Tree Related Damage’. Instead the applicant states there (on page 3): ‘Where comments relating to the structural fabric of the wall are made these are the opinions of a layperson and do not constitute a technical assessment.’ 

There have been substantial removal of trees on the site already over the last few years. Historic planning permissions imposed an 80 foot tree border on the site for screening purposes.

Key consultees have not been consulted. This application should not be determined until the relevant external organisations such as AONB and the County Archaeologist have been consulted.

Rother District Council controls the licence for the caravan park, so therefore should also be consulted, and their views taken into consideration and not ignored.

The sole consultee, HBC tree officer Chris Wilken, has given approval to this application.

The application is complex and does not provide sufficient detail as required and as such, it is hard to see how Mr Wilken has concluded that the application is acceptable.

This application should not be determined until there is sufficient supporting evidence and clear plans to determine the application, including wildlife reports, landscape impact and a report from an engineer or surveyor to determine whether any structural damage to the boundary wall is actually caused by the condemned trees.

TPO designation

TPO designation is meant to give important trees and landscapes protection. Sadly this does not seem to be the case in Hastings – it is very rare to see the HBC Tree Officer ever object to the removal of TPO trees.

Behind closed doors

The application has received 5 or more objections from the public yet this application will be decided behind closed doors by HBC officers using delegated authority, unlike many other local authorities which allow tree applications to be decided by the planning committee. 

Changes were made to the constitution in July 2017 to prevent TPO applications going to the Planning Committee. These changes were approved by full Council without any discussion by councillors in July 2017. These changes have reduced the rights of the public to have certain planning applications including TPO applications considered by the Planning Committee. Prior to this, the constitution allowed for TPO applications to be heard by the Planning Committee if they attracted the necessary number of objections. Several TPO applications at Beauport Park were decided by the Planning Committee.

Elected members no longer have the right to call the application in to the committee. However officers can still decide to take the application to the committee.

Request for consideration of application

The chair of the Planning Committee and other councillors have been contacted to request that this application is considered by the Planning Committee.

In the spirit of openness and transparency, this application should be decided by the Planning Committee.

It is shocking that Planning and Legal  Officers are stating that an application which will remove 71 trees and have such a large effect on the visual amenity of the area and wildlife cannot be decided in an open and transparent manner by our elected representatives. It makes no sense that such applications, which fundamentally change an area, cannot be decided by the Planning Committee yet minor changes to the design of a house can be.

TPO applications can be considered by Planning Committee

Councillor Chowney has recognised that large batches of tree works are of public interest and that changes to the constitution could be necessary:          

“Under our delegation scheme all decisions on tree works, TPOs and conservation areas are dealt with by officers.” The Constitution, Cllr Chowney said, doesn’t allow for the Planning Committee to be involved. “We may look at that in future, as larger batches of tree works could potentially be of public interest, but we would have to change the Constitution.”

The constitution still does allow for TPO applications to be considered by the Planning Committee in exceptional circumstances, should officers decide to do so.

Is it now time to change the HBC constitution so that TPO applications that attract five or more objections are treated like other planning applications and are decided by the Planning Committee as there were until last year.

Government pledge

Environment Secretary Michael Gove recently appointed Sir William Worsley, chairman of the National Forest Company, to help support the government’s promise to plant 12 million trees and stop councils needlessly chopping down trees.

According to The Guardian, “he will also support ‘the introduction of a new duty for councils to properly consult with communities before they cut down trees”, said officials.

Gove said: “We have a responsibility to make sure the next generation inherit the woodlands, forests and trees they deserve. We are beginning to see good progress in growing tree cover, but we need to go further – and faster”.

Worsley said: “Trees and woods are an important part of my life, as they are to local communities. They transform our landscapes, improve our health and well-being and help grow the economy”.

Posted 13:19 Tuesday, Sep 4, 2018 In: Nature


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    The Rocklands planning application for works to yet more trees has taken a sinister turn. Some of the trees are within council owned land and therefore this application must go before the planning committee. The planners are saying all the trees are within the Rocklands boundaries. This is clearly incorrect – previous maps presented by HBC show that this statement is wrong. So therefore this application must be decided via the planning committee route and not decided by officers behind closed doors.
    What can residents do in order to force this council to heed residents objections and process applications according to the Councils own Constitution?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Nov 12, 2018 @ 10:31

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    This application now has 23 objections – a recent objection from a caravan owner seems to suggest that tree felling has occurred inside the caravan park – this needs urgent investigation – have we got another Rocklands here – all sorts of proposals made about unsafe trees – less trees equals more space for more caravans.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Thursday, Sep 27, 2018 @ 12:42

  3. bolshie

    Very pleased to hear that Rother District Council have stepped into the breach here with this awful planning application to fell these trees. I hear this was basically all down the due diligence of an objector who contacted that council. It appears HBC had failed to ask for their opinion on this “Treecide.”
    And now we find out the Licence for this site is under the auspices of Rother D.C. and not HBC. So why is HBC handling this application in the first place.
    Would it happen to be the applicants think HBC would be an easier touch to get permission to allow this

    Comment by bolshie — Saturday, Sep 15, 2018 @ 07:43

  4. Ms.Doubtfire

    Talking about trees – we have another application from the commercial enterprise up at Rocklands caravan park: have a look at this one – planning application HS/TP/18/00769.
    Will this company ever cease their endeavour to chop down yet more trees and expose the hideous bunker they managed to get away with.
    And again this application will be decided by the delegated route, behind closed doors – anyything to do with trees – and we have no say.. WHAT is going on here???? We have to make protest otherwise the future looks very bleak for the trees in this town.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Wednesday, Sep 12, 2018 @ 10:41

  5. Eye on the ball

    It is great that HOT highlights cases of the council’s blatant disregard of any measures (such as TPOs) that protect our precious environment. However, I find it very frustrating that although we can moan and groan and throw up our hands in horror, HBC can just ignore this. It doesn’t stop them. Do any of HOT readers have the knowledge of how local authorities work to challenge decisions such as this? Could we have a HOT pressure group? I would happily devote some time if someone has the know-how.

    Comment by Eye on the ball — Wednesday, Sep 12, 2018 @ 08:45

  6. siobhan Moore

    I see all the time tree fascism, a beautiful beech tree in my area which provided refuge to birds and wildlife, a marker for bats and privacy for all the surrounding houses was cut down one morning it was considered by the tree office to be a few feet outside of the st helens park road protection zone.

    I think on every tree cull the public should be informed and consulted as the second the tree has gone there is no recourse just a gaping hole.

    As with this case, far better to replace a dead wall, than a living tree. We need a new tree officer who cares.

    After all it is our taxes that keep him employed and he needs to understand that.

    Comment by siobhan Moore — Tuesday, Sep 11, 2018 @ 11:51

  7. Bolshie

    I tend to disagree with Mr Woolf here where he says it is “not a party political matter.” After all the change of the council constitution to delegate decisions on tree applications happened on Cllr Chowney and the Labour party governance. They gave the nod on this change of policy.
    One has to seriously question the professional capabilities of HBC’s Tree Officer, Chris Wilkin who appears to approve any tree felling application that lands on his desk. A memorable one was last year when a resident wanted to fell an Oak Tree from the ancient woodland on the edge of Robsack Meadow because of the loss of light and the leaves dropping into his garden. This Tree officer gave his blessing to that! Unbelievable to think he would sanction something like that for those reasons. I remember too where trees about to get a TPO order on Gillsmans Hill suddenly got felled over a weekend.
    I see with this application his approval is brief without any comments on such a large proposal.
    And as you see the councillors pretty much just go with the flow

    Comment by Bolshie — Friday, Sep 7, 2018 @ 08:37

  8. Chris Hurrell

    I have just found a Woodland Management Plan (WMP) produced for Beauport in August 2016. This WMP states that 277 trees in compartment 16 will be felled in years 3 to 5 of the plan (2018 to 2020).

    Most of Compartment 16 is within the area covered by the latest TPO application.

    In years 3 to 5 of the WMP (we are now in year3) it is intended to thin by 20% and to remove 277 trees in compartment 16.

    The TPO application states that 71 trees are to be removed for safety reasons and to protect the boundary wall, a further 20 trees are to be reduced to under half a metre in height.

    The projected number of trees to be felled in the WMP casts serious doubts on the reasons given by the applicant for the felling of 71 trees. It appears that the applicant has had the intention of felling 277 of the trees in compartment 16 for several years and this pre dates the safety reasons or the need to protect the boundary wall.

    Could the reasons cited in the TPO application be a pretext for carrying out a predetermined plan of tree felling?

    Comment by Chris Hurrell — Thursday, Sep 6, 2018 @ 16:52

  9. Ms.Doubtfire

    Rother District Council has a comprehensive list of the protected trees on this caravan site and yet they have not been consulted on this application to fell 71 trees and other major works. They also hold the licences for these caravans.
    Is this another example of shoddy planning procedures by Hastings council? And one really has to question the brief comments by the council’s tree officer – has he actually visited the site and inspected the trees? Has he consulted with other appropriate authorities on this major application? There are implications for protected wildlife on this site – where are the necessary surveys and reports on this?

    There are some very detailed objections on this planning website – and it is important to read them.There is no way this application should be decided behind close doors via the delegated route and one has to ask our Leader Cllr. Peter Chowney why his council recommended a change to OUR constitution so that it is now nigh impossible to get major tree works applications heard by our planning committee or indeed, to allow the public to be represented.
    Why are our planning officers allowed to make these behind closed doors decisions on matters that affect the entire Borough? Basically if one takes the Constition at face value it stands to reason that if an application was submitted to fell all the protected trees in Hastings & St. Leonards, we would have no say and neither would our elected Members on the planning committee.
    Something is wrong here and it needs investigating without delay.
    This is totally unacceptable.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Thursday, Sep 6, 2018 @ 14:27

  10. David Woolf

    Please keep publishing details of these outrages, HOT. This is not a party-political matter but it is an indication of how poorly HBC is being run and we need to be informed.

    Comment by David Woolf — Thursday, Sep 6, 2018 @ 11:17

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