08 November 2008

Tree Preservation: 35 Sunderland Road

At 35 Sunderland Road is a large eucalyptus tree that already has a preservation order and application DC/08/69850/FT requests permission to fell the tree. The Forest Hill Society have written to object:

We wish to object to the proposal to fell the eucalyptus tree at 35 Sunderland Road, for the following reasons:

1. Factual inaccuracy: the application states that the tree has caused damage to the 'pavement'. However the accompanying surveyor's report states that the damage is to the 'paving', presumably in the front garden. I recently walked past the property and saw no damage to the pavement in front of the property.

2. The application does not include an arboriculturalist's report. The report submitted is a brief report by a chartered surveyor, which contains only two paragraphs about the trees. The report recommends that "an arboriculturalist be invited to inspect and report on the trees". The application provides no evidence that this has been done.

3. The loss of the eucalyptus would be contrary to policy URB 13 Trees of the Unitary Development Plan. Lewisham has previously acknowledged this, in relation to a planning application in 2006 (DC/06/63172). At that time the outlook for the eucalyptus was positive, with no suggestion that it needed to be felled, and both Lewisham Council and the Planning Inspectorate supported the retention of the three trees on the site:

3.1 An arboriculturalist's report by Simon Jones Associates was submitted with the above application and categorised the eucalyptus in accordance with British Standard (2005) 'Trees in relation to construction - Recommendations' as Category B: "Trees of moderate quality and value: those in such a condition as to make a significant contribution (a minimum of 20 years is suggested)". This categorisation took into account the tree's species and the contraints of its physical location. In no way did the report suggest that the eucalyptus needed to be removed. It did acknowledge that pruning or tree surgery was likely to be required on a regular basis to manage the tree's conflicts with its urban surroundings (s. 2.2.8), and that the constraints of its present situation would entail the need for crown reduction in the very near future (s.4.1.2).

3.2 Lewisham refused planning permission, one of the grounds being that the proposed development would be likely to prejudice the retention of the protected eucalyptus and two limes trees, contrary to policy URB 13 Trees of the Adopted Unitary Development Plan (July 2004) (s.5 of decision notice dated 1 November 2006).

3.3. The applicant appealed against Lewisham's refusal (Appeal reference APP/C5690/A/07/2042273). Based on a site visit in August 2007, the Planning Inspector supported Lewisham's decision in relation to the eucalyptus and two lime trees, stating 'To my mind, the loss of any protected trees in this urban setting would be a negative step in redeveloping the site. Views towards the site from Waldram Park Road confirm the value of the on-site trees and others in the street scene." (s.6).

It is for these reasons that we believe any claim that the eucalyptus is causing damage to property should be supported by strong expert evidence - evidence which is absent from this application. Both Lewisham Council and the Planning Inspectorate have acknowledged the importance of the eucalyptus and two limes, and permission to fell any of these trees should be given only as a last resort. The trees may well need pruning or crown reduction, in which case any work that is permitted should be carried out in a way that maintains the trees' contribution to the streetscape.

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