Against nature

Andrew Brown recently blogged about the fate of three trees in St John's recently but we thought it was slightly outside our catchment area to follow-up on.

However, last week, another Sycamore tree was lost - this time in Geoffrey Road, at the edge of the conservation area, near Brockley Cross.

Local residents were not consulted and no explanation has been given as to why it was allowed to be destroyed (despite the fact that it was located in the conservation area). The work was part of a private development, which has helped to tidy up a derelict patch of land, but why the Sycamore had to go as part of that exercise has not been addressed. In fact, there has been no communication about any of the work on that (substantial) plot.

In our view, the loss of trees in cities is always a tragedy that should be avoided if at all possible - they have a civilising effect on the streetscape, provide habitat for wildlife and look nice and leafy. The large trees that line many of Brockley's streets are one of its best defining features.

We have tried to contact the relevant people in Lewisham's planning department about this, but so far, we have had no luck as the team is "very stretched" at the moment.

If any of the councillors who occasionally read this site would care to comment about the Council's position on this matter, it would be much appreciated.

13 comments:

spincat said...

Am glad you have raised this. A similar issue I have raised with the council is the number of gardens that are being lost. Trees, grass, shrubs and flower beds are being paved over the make car parking space. One road in my part of SE4 has lost nearly two thirds of its good sized front gardens over the past 5 years. The road slopes and there are regular floods down the bottom whihc I am sure are partly the result of the hard surfacing.

I last raised this with the council a few years ago, when the whole thing started to change with frightening speed, and I then gathered 'nothing could be done'. Don't know if policy has changed since. Is a bit late now if it has!

Luke said...

A tree on Tressillian got chopped a couple of months ago too...

Just a barky stump remains...

richardhoward666 said...

Luke:
Do you mean the bottom of Tressillian Rd? If so, that tree was apparently rotten and cut down because a huge branch fell off.

BTW: the stump was removed this weekend...

Andrew Brown said...

Nick, I thought you were one of the believers in the "greater Brockley", surely St John's is ready to be annexed!

There's lots of misunderstanding about the way that the council looks after (and looks at) street trees. There are issues of liability where trees are causing damage to private property, and as Richard points out trees do die as well.

The Council had - and probably still does - a policy of replacing 100% of the trees it looks after when I had responsibility for that policy area. But, for street trees, there was a move away from putting in very large trees (plains and the like) to cherry trees that have a life-cycle of about 30 years.

On front garden's I'm not sure that there's much that can be done to stop the sort of thing that spincat talks about. I know that the GLA's Environment Committee took a London wide look at the issue a little while back, but can't honestly remember what conclusions they came to.

Luke said...

Ahh, is that why is was lopped? I thought some scalllies has pulled that branch down...

Brockley Nick said...

Thanks for the info Andrew, very interesting. I understand that sometimes trees have to go, however, I do think that the council should communicate changes like that to local residents properly and should consider all the options before lopping them down.

The tree that prompted the article was perfectly healthy.

Sarah said...

According to Lewisham Council’s planning website ( http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/6F7C1CDF-802C-4BFB-A94A-FA50D27317E8/0/Brockleyguidance.pdf ) Geoffrey Road is within the conservation area and all the trees in the conservation area are protected, it also mentions that there are restrictions on how much people can tarmac over their front gardens etc.

If the sad-looking stump’s still there tomorrow morning I’ll take a picture and send it to them!

deekrs said...

Sarah - great and thank you for taking the initiative.

I have been wondering about that plot -- workmen have been in there for some weeks now and there's been no planning document posted, for trees or anything else. It looks like so far, they've just been clearing the site, and rebuilding the wall (with London brick, which i think is consistent with the planning guidance anyway); but I thought you needed permission to fell trees. Does anyone have a photo of the street with the tree in it? (in case there's a height threshold or something?)

Anonymous said...

Hi

Have been interested reading this thread and checked the Lewisham planning site and saw planning has been granted for the tree to be removed: (http://acolnet.lewisham.gov.uk/LEWIS-XSLPagesDC/acolnetcgi.exe?ACTION=UNWRAP&RIPNAME=Root.PgeResultDetail&TheSystemkey=50969)

The planning application says, "Fell a decayed Sycamore tree and carry out maintenance and remedial work as detailed in the application to two further Sycamore trees to the rear of 161 Upper Brockley Road"

It does look like more than one tree has been removed though...

Anonymous said...

With regard to paving over front gardens - the Brockely Conservation area is subject to Article 4 which means that - including no satellite dishes on the fronts of houses & PVC double glazing - front gardens may not be totally covered in tarmac / paved over. I have used Article 4 successfully twice. The first time the developers had to remove all the paving they had laid in the front, the second time (different development) they had to remove the black bin liner bags of rubbish they had piled up in the front garden (for over 4 weeks). I called Lewisham planning and explained the situation – they sent an enforcement officer to visit the site the following day and the problem was remedied almost the same day.

deekrs said...

Anonymous 1, thanks for tht info, well spotted. I had missed it on Lewisham's site. I'm glad they had permission; however, I walk by that plot twice a day, and I'm a compulsive sign-reader (something I am liberally teased about, by my partner in particular), and I'm pretty sure I've never seen a planning notice posted around there. (Maybe you don't need to post tree planning permission - just building work?).

Anonymous 2, since you have experience in this area, does Art 4 cover people who have gravelled over their front gardens? its not exactly paved, but it sure is ugly. Thanks --

Anonymous said...

Hi deekrs - this is Anon 2 and in answer to your question the “Brockley conservation area supplementary planning document” states the following

“If you want to alter or replace any of the items mentioned in this document, you will need planning permission (p.2) …

Front gardens

Front gardens contribute to the leafy and spacious appearance of the conservation area and reflect the high status of the Victorian houses, as workers’ housing did not have front gardens at all. Keep plants in your front garden as they provide an attractive counterpoint to the hard architecture of the property, and they also allow natural drainage. Extensive hard surfaces will not be permitted.

In some instance permission may be granted for a small hard surface in a sympathetic traditional material if softened by a well-designed area of garden and planting, and retaining as much front wall as possible. Stone and tiled paths are rare and should not be removed. (p.7)”

So I guess if the garden is totally gravelled over with no other planting then I it may come under Article 4. The best person to ask is of course is the enforcement officer at Lewisham Council.

Kate said...

On a related, though perhaps slightly contradictory note, I'm finding it incredibly frustrating trying to engage with the council over the tree outside my house, which my insurers say is causing cracking and subsidence. I don't want it to go unless absolutely necessary, as I like it, but it needs pruning so its water uptake is reduced (according to my surveyor). I've written to them twice now, over a period of 4 months, with a copy of the surveyor's report, but haven't had so much as a courtesy acknowledgement from them. What do I have to do, wait til the house is properly damaged and then sue them?!

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