PLANS to chop down a problem Sycamore tree in Brynmawr which is subject to tree preservation order (TPO) has been approved by councillors.
In doing this, at their meeting on Thursday September 2, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s planning committee went against planning officer’s recommendation to refuse the application.
A TPO is used to protect trees where removing it would have a significant impact on the environment and its enjoyment by the public.
According to the planning report the tree’s root system is damaging a wall, steps, and gate at the Endsleigh, Alma Terrace, Brynmawr.
Healthy trees protected by TPO should not be chopped down, but an argument for its removal can be made if it is causing structural damage.
The council’s arboricultural officer objected to the proposed felling of the sycamore tree on the basis that it is of substantial amenity value within the local area and that no other “engineering solutions” to keep the tree had been suggested.
Applicant Daniel Phillips spoke at the meeting.
He told councillors that when he bought the property in 2008 the tree had not been subject to a TPO.
Mr Phillips said: “The road is half a mile long with trees covering both sides of it.
“I don’t feel removing mine would have a significant impact on the area.”
“The wall is dangerous and that’s caused by the tree, I believe that it should be removed.”
Cllr Wayne Hodgins said: “It’s a strange case, we as an authority got to allow people to protect their properties.
“I don’t think we would have been at this juncture if we had taken a bit more of a pragmatic view in 2018 when it was first applied to reduce it (tree) by 40 per cent.”
“As the tree grows higher the roots grow wider.
“We don’t know how far those roots are going into the ground or the main structure of the property or the highway, and it’s something we need to be mindful of.”
“I would like to move that the applicant is allowed to do the necessary work.”
Cllr Hodgins motion was backed by Cllr Bernard Willis.
Cllr Willis said: “You’ll never stop a tree growing and when it interferes with someone’s home, I think you’re obligated to do something about it.”
Cllr David Wilkshire added that it was “common sense” to remove it.
Blaenau Gwent development management team leader, Steph Hopkins said: “The crux of the report is that we were looking for these alternatives to be explored, if they are ruled out then we may come to a different decision.
“Without that information before us, our recommendation has to be refusal.”
Councillors pointed out that more reports would create extra costs and that the applicant would already have to pay to deal with felling the tree and fixing the wall.
Cllr Clive Meredith urged caution and believed that these alternatives should be looked at before a decision is made.
Cllr Meredith said: “We cannot disregard a TPO without investigations taking place or we’re going to open up a minefield.
“We need to give this due diligence rather than just looking at the costs.”
Ms Hopkins stressed that going against planning officer recommendations would “undermine the decisions we make” to put TPO’s on trees in the county borough.
Councillors voted nine in favour and one against the amendment to allow the tree to be felled.
A condition on the permission is that a new tree will be planted along the boundary to replace the Sycamore.
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