Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Winchester House, south side

Can’t see the wood for the trees?

Some healthy oak trees on Council land have escaped felling, no thanks to Hastings Borough Council (HBC) — but many others are under threat for no clear reason, reports Bernard McGinley.

Just as the deadline was reached for the Crowhurst Road tree-felling case to go for a decision behind closed doors (‘delegated powers’), news came in that the applicant had withdrawn the application (planning ref HS/TP/17/00499). That  for the moment at least appears to be that.  

In their objection before that happened, the Woodland Trust commented:

These oaks stand along the boundary of Robsack Wood, so their removal would have a detrimental impact on the internal woodland environment. This is known as edge effects, and will result in changes to the environmental conditions within the woodland and consequently affecting the wood’s stable conditions through additional light and noise pollution.

The Council’s arboricultural officer failed to mention the question of edge effects.

Cause célèbre

It’s remarkable that a minor-looking case turned into a cause célèbre. The provocations however were many, and the precedent ominous. Could residents really be allowed to fell trees they didn’t own, because they cast a shadow? Could the felling be approved on the basis of the Council’s tree person saying The borough arboriculturalist raises no objections to the proposed works’, and the Council’s Estates Manager declining to comment? And all this without discussing their status as healthy oaks owned by Hastings Borough Council and protected  by a TPO [Tree Protection Order]?  

Additionally Robsack Wood has always been a Local Wildlife Site and Local Nature Reserve but in 2015 the Planning Inspector for the Local Plan exempted the small ‘meadow’ which links Robsack Wood to Churchwood from development.   

The application form should have been rejected anyway, as sections of it were improperly filled in or not filled in at all.  Additionally a map of the proposed works was clearly inadequate.  

So trees in a particular place should never have been  threatened. Even so, timber may yet fall elsewhere in the Borough.


More south side prep

Recently a new application has come to light:  HS/TP/17/00749, for ‘Various tree works’ at 93 Pevensey Road. This is the site also known as Winchester House, a large old building in a peculiarly unnamed access road, between the Hospice and the Archery Ground. The building is being renovated and refurbed to provide housing, but it is not clear what is happening in the extensive grounds. The operators of the scheme, Optivo, are AmicusHorizon – who have numerous projects in Hastings & St Leonards – rebadged following their merger with Virdidian.


More clearance

Yet again the application form has not been properly filled in. As such it should not have been accepted but returned (as is good practice, shown in the recent Ice House case (HS/FA/16/01010). In Section 5 the applicant states that the trees are not in a Conservation Area but they certainly are: Markwick Terrace Conservation Area, under threat as previously discussed. That there are trees subject to a TPO is acknowledged. In Section 6 however the details are not given. There should be reference to TPO 64, a statutory designation made in March 1974. At the end of the citation there is a particularly useful map of the site.

Section 8, additional information ‘For works to trees covered by a TPO’, which was acknowledged in Section 5  – and is said to be ‘required’ on the form – is left blank.  News about the conditions of the 17 trees to be felled and others pollarded or coppiced or reduced is not given.  Reasons for removal are undeclared.

Section 10 is optional but its filling-in stated to be advisable. Though it is only 8 tickboxes, the Section here is entirely empty.

Why the Council’s Validation Team thought this form was valid is a mystery.

The Arboricultural Officer has yet to comment.


Winchester House, front (north side)

The much-parroted line that the HBC Constitution now requires such cases to be decided under ‘delegated powers’ only is false. There are several clear ways in which cases can be returned to Committee. Exemptions from delegation are stated in Paragraph 44 of Section E of Part 3b of Part 8 of the Constitution and include where

[44] f.  The Planning Committee otherwise direct in respect of any [sic] particular application or reserved matter;


Winchester House, west side and pathway

Additionally in Part 8, Section 18 of the Standard Instructions to Authorised Officers is clear about how any case could be given to our elected representatives for further consideration:

18.  The Authorised Officers acting under these Instructions are not obliged to exercise the powers delegated to them under these Instructions and may, whenever they deem it appropriate, consult the relevant Lead member or refer the matter to the Cabinet for decision.

The public interest in accountability continues.

Posted 15:12 Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 In: Home Ground


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Chris Hurrell

    The Rocklands fiasco showed that HBC failed to listen to public reports of tree removals, failed to investigate any complaints properly, failed to consider detailed evidence and did not follow proper planning procedures. The HBC tree officer has ignored all unauthorised tree removals and claims that most trees were removed by the landslip.. The two TPO applications covered in the Hottie article show nothing has changed – they should never have passed primary validation. Sadly the HBC tree officer does not do his job properly. Rather than improve their performance HBC have focussed on restricting the right for applications to be taken to the planning committee. Tree works applications are now all considered behind closed doors by officers.

    Comment by Chris Hurrell — Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017 @ 14:23

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    Why is this council’s planning department permitting incorrectly filled application forms to be registered and posted on the council’s planning website? These applications are invalid.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 @ 20:27

  3. Zelly Restorick

    Here’s a link to a Guardian article: Put a price on urban trees – and halt the chainsaw massacre by Patrick Barkham, talking about what trees contribute to this planet and for our health:
    Listen to the number of chain saws at work and see the number of tree surgeon and arborist vans around in this area alone, aware that they all want/need work, causes me to be concerned for our tree life. Here and around the UK as a whole.
    To me, trees and other greenery add significant benefits to any urban area – and are pleasing to the eye amongst all the greys.

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 @ 16:05

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