6 April 2008

Trees on Upper Brockley Road

Even though I know the area very well, I have just been out on another site visit for a planning application to fell four trees on Upper Brockley Road. Clearly we don't know if they are structurally unsound or unsafe - however they do seem to have survived some of the worst winds we've had in a long long time this winter.

Here's the damaged wall:

Here are the trees:

Lewisham's policies on trees is:

"URB 13 Trees
The Council will seek to maintain, protect and increase the numbers and quality of trees in the Borough, and where this does not conflict with nature conservation interests will:-
(a) make Tree Preservation Orders wherever necessary and safeguard all trees that are the subject of tree preservation orders;
(b) require developers, as a condition of planning permission, to retain existing trees and to plant appropriate new ones where this is appropriate and practicable; and
(c) resist the loss of trees unless dangerous to the public or in rare circumstances when felling is required as part of a replanting programme and particularly on sites where trees make a significant contribution to the character and appearance of the area.

The Council considers that trees and shrubs are very important to the visual and environmental quality and amenity of built up areas as well as to nature conservation, biodiversity and sustainability objectives, and are a valuable resource to be cared for and protected. The Council will interpret ‘suitable’ trees for replanting as meaning native species in support of these objectives.

The Council has the power to place Tree Preservation Orders on single trees or groups of trees, which it considers are important, in order to prevent their removal or mutilation.
Many Tree Preservation Orders were made in the 1950s and their number has been continually increasing. Tree Preservation Orders will be made in accordance with current Government guidance. As well as protection, continual maintenance, pruning and replanting of trees and shrubs is needed in order to maintain the stock. The Council can require planting in private developments as a condition of planning consent. The Council will discourage proposed development that would result in the loss or damage to trees, especially those making an important contribution to the street scene or the character of a Conservation Area, and will normally require a proper replacement when a tree is felled. Trees should also be protected from street or road-works and the use of chemicals on road surfaces."

The protection of our trees is an issue that comes up time & time again, yet still without satisfactory resolution. It seems in part to do with a risk-averse, do-it-on-the-cheap culture. However, views across our streets like that above add so much to the pleasure of living in Brockley I really think we have to be really sure that nothing can be done before rushing to fell such trees.

In Lewisham all applications for tree felling are made by officers under 'delegated powers', other local authorities do things differently. Perhaps it's time for Councillors to have a direct say on behalf of the local people, in granting such permissions. We are not so daft as to simply reject any application for felling, but perhaps we may in a better place to explain decisions and articulate local concerns, opinions and options.

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