Agenda item

Tree Conservation


The Landscape Officer delivered a presentation to support the report of the Director – Development and Economic Growth and the concerns raised around the management of trees, tree protection in the Borough through conservation areas and tree preservation orders (TPO’s) and controls on development sites.


The Landscape Officer explained that Tree Preservation Orders (TPO’s) can be used to protect trees where ‘it is expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the preservation of trees or woodlands in their area’. Government guidelines state that TPO’s should be used to protect selected trees and woodlands if their removal would have a significant negative impact on the local environment and its enjoyment by the public and that trees should at least, be visible from a public vantage point. Images of some prominent trees within the Borough were provided as examples.


The Landscape Officer advised the group that most of the current TPO’s were made as a result of planning applications and that the Council also use conservation area tree notices and enquiries from the public as a catalyst to make a TPO. The Landscape Officer added that in respect of a conservation area due regard needs to be given to the special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance the area and the Council has three options: do nothing; make a TPO or allow work to proceed (no conditions).


The Landscape Officer advised that the Council receives on average 200 notifications a year mainly through development and planning applications. The group were informed that the Council manage over 3000 trees within the Borough with some requests for work from residents in respect of loss of light and potential damage to properties. In this instance Officers would take a pragmatic approach, if damage to property was evident, then removal of a healthy tree would be permitted. However, loss of light would not permit the removal of trees and the Council would address the issue by way of pruning and tree management.


The Chairman asked a specific question relating to trees that currently have a

preservation order within a new development and whether the Council has robust enough policies to ensure that future claims on such trees once they have grown in maturity, still remain protected.  The Landscape Officer explained that homebuyers often don’t consider trees when buying a house and that an application to remove the TPO would need to be submitted to the Council. The Council would then consider the application on aesthetic quality and visual impact on the public. If the tree is in a prominent visual location it would be unlikely that it would be removed unless found to be dangerous or diseased.


Councillor Barney commended the Council for its extensive tree planting with over 2500 new trees having been planted across the Borough. Councillor Barney also asked how much of a problem disease was to tree stock and how Rushcliffe compares to other similar authorities when it comes to planting and establishing new tree schemes. The Landscape Officer explained that disease is a noticeable problem particularly amongst Ash trees and in the coming years many of these trees will be lost. In respect of comparisons with other authorities the Planning Officer advised that this was difficult to quantify, but he knew of similar schemes adopted by Newark and Sherwood DC.


Members asked whether the Council would consider widening its diversity of trees to prevent the spread of disease thus allowing biodiversity to adapt to climate and environmental changes.


Members raised concerns in respect of large developments where often sites are cleared ahead of planning consent and the destruction caused to  trees and established hedgerows by extensive cutting, destroying habitats for nesting birds and insects, adding that these are often not protected by TPO’s or in a conservation area and whether the Council could review its enforcement policy to prevent this or protect hedgerows as well as trees. The Landscape Officer explained that there is a national legal framework in respect of enforcement, the draft policy for tree protection and tree management would set out the Council’s role, function and priorities.


Members asked, how would the policy be publicised and how does Rushcliffe compare with other authorities in respect of an online mapping system.  The Landscape Officer explained that the Council currently has no framework in place, a policy would provide basic advise on TPO’s, could include diversity of species and could look at expanding the  nature and character of the Borough’s trees. In respect of the online system the Landscape Officer advised that he is aware that Nottingham City, Gedling and Charnwood provided an online service and others may do too.


In considering the recommendations the Group proposed some additional comments, including the appraisal of planning applications, investigating the strengthening of protection and enforcement and lobbying Government for improved legislation including climate change, biodiversity and the inclusion of hedgerows.


It was RESOLVED that the Growth and Development Scrutiny Group:


a)     Supports the drafting of a tree protection policy and tree management policy setting out the Council’s role, function and priorities, including appraisal of planning applications and the investigation to strengthening protection and enforcement.


b)     Supports the investigation into the feasibility of an online mapping system which could be used to show protected trees in the Borough.


c)     A letter from Councillor Abby Brennan, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Communities and Climate Change be sent to the Secretary of State for levelling up, Housing and Communities for improved legislation to take into account climate change, biodiversity and to include the protection of hedgerows.

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