Report of Chief Officer (Governance)
The Committee considered the objections received to a decision of the Council under Section 198 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 making an order in respect of an area of woodland comprised of mixed broadleaf species trees, established on land to the east of Midland Terrace, Millhead, Carnforth, and identified as A1, being Tree Preservation Order No. 530 (2013), and thereafter whether or not to confirm the Order.
It was reported that the City Council had received a single, formal, written objection from Cassidy and Ashton, Tree Planning Consultants, on behalf of the landowner, Ocean Wave Estates Ltd.
Tree Preservation Order No. 530 (2013) had been served following Lancaster City Council becoming aware that a large volume of trees had been felled within the site. Concerns had been expressed to the Council that this work had been carried out over a weekend period and had resulted in devastation of the landscape. When the Council had visited, a huge volume of early mature and mature trees had already been felled, utterly devastating the site in question.
Whilst the trees were not protected at that time, there was a legal requirement to obtain a licence from the Forestry Commission prior to undertaking large scale felling operations, where the volume of timber was expected to be 5 cubic metres or greater in any quarter period. The landowner had failed to make any such application and it was understood from the Forestry Commission that the large scale loss of unauthorised timber, in excess of 13 tonnes covering an area of .89 hectares, was currently being investigated. The Council had received no indication from the landowners that the large scale loss of trees was to occur. The Council had since been advised by the agent acting on behalf of the landowner that an application was likely to be submitted for development of the land in question at a future time.
Present at the meeting was Mr. Alban Cassidy, Town and Country Planning Consultant, of Cassidy and Ashton, agents for the Appellant and landowners, Ocean Wave Estates Ltd.
Mr. Cassidy presented the case on behalf of the Appellant, and advised Members that the Appellant did not object to the whole of the TPO, only that relating to the area to the far west of the overall site, where recent clearance works had been undertaken. This area of land contained no trees worthy of protection by virtue of any amenity value.
In his opinion, the Appellant had not committed any breach of planning control. It had been alleged that there had been a breach of the felling regime. The Forestry Commission had been consulted and the potential for restocking had been identified.
Mr. Cassidy reported that United Utilities had recently notified the Appellant of their proposal to install a storm attenuation tank on part of the site in question over the next three years. The Forestry Commission had been notified and a suitable area would need to be identified for the restocking to take place. The proposal would severely reduce the Appellant’s plans for a planning application in relation to the site in question.
It was suggested that the area to the far west of the overall site did not meet the test for a TPO, and that a TPO covering that area would be legally flawed in the circumstances.
Members were asked not to confirm TPO No. 523 (2013).
Tree Protection Officer
The Tree Protection Officer presented the case on behalf of Lancaster City Council.
Members were advised that the land in question was established to the east of Midland Terrace, Millhead, Carnforth. The trees in question were, by and large, mixed species, broadleaf, deciduous trees, ranging from young to mature trees.
There was a watercourse immediately to the north which, combined with existing trees, provided an extremely important habitat for a range of wildlife communities, including protected species, such as nesting birds and bats. The wildlife value and biological importance of the site had been recognised and designated a Biological Heritage Site (BHS). This designation related to the southern aspect of the land in question.
The site was also established within Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Trees were an important component feature of the AONB, making a significant contribution to the visual appearance, character and wildlife value of the AONB.
The Council had received no indication from the landowners that the large-scale loss of trees was to occur. The Council had been advised by the agent acting on behalf of the landowner that an application was likely to be submitted for development of the land in question at a future time.
The remaining trees within the site woodland in question had been assessed in terms of their amenity value using the Tree Evaluation Method for Preservation Orders (TEMPO), and, with a score of 15+, the use of a Tree Preservation Order was described as ‘definitely merits’.
The area identified as A1 was a significant landscape feature. The remaining woodland trees were clearly visible and could be appreciated from a range of locations within the wider landscape and public domain, including the busy public highway immediately to the west. The wider landscape had been adversely impacted with the recent devastating loss of so many large scale, early-mature and mature trees from within the site.
The age and condition of the existing trees was such that they had significant remaining life potential beyond the next 50+ years, and with good management they had the potential to remain beyond the next 50 to 100 years.
The site had an important role in the provision of resources, habitat and foraging opportunities for a range of wildlife communities, including the potential for protected species, such as nesting birds and bats. Whilst the benefit of trees to wildlife could not be used as a sole reason for making and serving a TPO, in conjunction with existing amenity value, the value of trees to wildlife could be recognised within current TPO legislation.
TPO No. 530 (2013) had been made on 16th December 2013, following concerns being expressed to the Council following a devastating and large scale loss of trees. Standing trees remained in the area where the majority of trees had been felled.
It was reported that Lancaster City Council considered it to be expedient in the interests of amenity to make TPO No. 530 (2013) because of the devastating loss of trees and in order to protect those that remained. The area affected by tree losses was apparent from the public domain and, combined with the potential for further felling operations, there remained a significant threat to the visual appearance, character and public amenity value of the immediate and wider locality. The loss of trees in this location had the potential to adversely impact upon important wildlife communities, some of which were in themselves also protected by law.
Lancaster City Council considered it expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the preservation of the woodland in question, and at that time under sections 198, 201 and 203 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, for the following reasons:
· Important public visual amenity.
· Important landscape feature in keeping with the character of the immediate and wider locality.
· Significant potential to provide important habitat and resources for a range of protected and unprotected wildlife communities, and includes a designated Biological Heritage Site.
· Ongoing threat from removal of trees and development of the land in the future.
A tree preservation order did not prevent works being undertaken that were appropriate and reasonable and in the interest of good arboriculture practice, and in compliance to current standard of practice BS 3998 (2010) – Tree Work. In addition, the powers of a tree preservation order were overridden where planning consent was granted for development and trees were required to be removed in order to implement that consent.
The Tree Protection Officer reported that in her professional opinion, the area of woodland trees in question remained under significant threat from further tree removals and inappropriate management. The site was likely to become the subject of a planning application in the future. TPO No. 530 (2013) must be confirmed without modification to ensure important trees and wildlife habitat were protected in the interest of public amenity and wildlife value.
Members asked questions of the Tree Protection Officer.
(The Tree Protection Officer and the Appellant’s representative left the meeting room whilst the Committee made its decision in private.)
Members considered the options before them:
(1) To confirm Tree Preservation Order No. 530 (2013)
(a) Without modification
(b) Subject to such modification as is considered expedient
(2) Not to confirm Tree Preservation Order No. 530 (2013).
It was proposed by Councillor Hill and seconded by Councillor Leytham:
“That Tree Preservation Order No. 530 (2013) be confirmed.”
Upon being put to the vote, Members voted unanimously in favour of the proposition, whereupon the Chairman declared the proposal to be clearly carried.
(The Tree Protection Officer and the Appellant’s representative returned to the meeting for the decision to be announced)
That Tree Preservation Order No. 530 (2013) be confirmed.