Four more plane trees must die

The Council are planning to hack down four more large plane trees on Lewisham Way [158a Lewisham Way, SE4]. This time, it's on the pretext that they are damaging a boundary wall (though you wouldn't know it to look at the wall).

The original deadline for public consultation was April 2nd, but given that they only mailed out the Brockley Society letter on April 1st, they ought to accept submissions received after this deadline. The BrocSoc, by the way, are the only people who got a letter.

Here's the application if you wish to have a look and register your views.

UPDATE: Brockley Central reader and UBR resident Ros took the time to get a petition going and has submitted it to the council (see comments). Cllr Dean Walton has said on his blog that the application has been refused, and that the trees are now protected by a preservation order. Victory? Perhaps not, as Ros points out in her comment, TPOs can be revoked, and it might just be a temporary measure while they decide what to do with the trees. Shame that those who took time out to object in writing (including Brockley Central) don't get informed of the situation.

37 comments:

Kate said...

Oh FFS!
Perhaps you can touch on this when you have your meeting with them about the tree in the Lewisham College car park?

Is everyone enjoying the Brockley snow, by the way? I'm going out to take some pics on Hilly Fields in a bit ...

Anonymous said...

what the hell are lewisham council on? knock down the wall! just conserve, conserve, conserve! if they are adamant about knocking them down then they have to replace all of the trees they knock down.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

As if you need to see the site for yourselves, I have put a post on my much-neglected blog on this issue - with a couple of pictures. One is of the trees, the other is of the damage to the boundary wall.

But to keep things simple, any comments should be here!

Thanks

Dean

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Its not as simple as that. The wall might not be owned by the council. If its privately owned, then the insurers would normally contact the council and agree a settlment payable to the insurer for the councils negligence - hence the desire to remove the trees.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

It is my understanding that the property is owned by Lewisham and is currently managed by the Brockley PFI. So could we be in the odd situation of the Brockley PFI suing the Council for trees that MAY cause damage to Lewisham's own property - well that's PFI economics for you.

I have asked the Trees Officer to clarify what impact the ownwership of this land has on the likely outcome of any decision to either allow the felling or more importantly to refuse it.

Headhunter said...

What's the latest on this meeting re the trees, with the council BTW?

lb said...

Just to clarify, aren't those trees on Upper Brockley Road, not Lewisham Way, according to the pictures?

Anonymous said...

I think technically the property is Lewisham Way

Tressillian James said...

ALERT! This situation is worse than we think and will not get better. On looking a the application, Arbortech have applied to cut down about a dozen trees, all over the conservation area and Arabin Road on the grounds of damage to foundations or garden walls.

It would seem to me that Brockley PFI Regenter, who I beleive Arbortech are working for, are ensuring that they do not get future repair bills from trees, and are cutting down any that may seem dubious.

This has come on the back of the property assessment that is being carried out - and it behoves the PFI to get rid of any closely situated trees, even if they are not showing signs of damage. It is the cheaper option.

If we see old pictures of the area there were always trees on the roads; the streets were also heavily bombed by V2s; and possibly suffer from the clay soil below. Are the trees really the cause of any cracks or subsidence? Will these houses that have stood for over 100 years really tumble? Or is Regenter just scared of having to rebuild some garden walls in the future. Looking at the application form it seems that Regenter will be chopping trees down at an alarming rate

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

thats a very alarmist view - sadly, probably correct.

Headhunter said...

TJ, Could you post a link to the applications to cut these trees down?

Brockley Jon said...

At first I hadn't realised which trees we were talking about, but thanks to Dean's photos, I am now - this situation is tricky and could have dire consequences! Allow me to explain...

That wall used to belong to the beautiful church at the end of the road, that the council in their wisdom decided to knock down many moons ago (1960s?). The wall is all we have left, and as I understand it, is actually listed. Indeed it is owned by Lewisham, as social housing now sits on the site.

For years there have been calls to reinstate the wrought iron railings that once spanned the entire wall, and generally clean it up, as it could be quite attractive (they still haven't repaired it where a car hit it 3 years ago). The railings would also have the positive affect of stopping fried-chicken eaters from sitting on the wall making nuisances of themselves.

Recently, the wall has begun to fall over, and the council put evil fences all the way along it - hence resident's louder cries to sort it out - I assume this provoked the new planning application.

However I hadn't realised the severity of the situation, and losing those trees would be a bit of a disaster for the road! But removing the wall is not an option either, since it's protected, and of historical interest - evidence that there was once a grand church on the site.

Hopefully we can have a chat about this when we meet re. the Lewisham college car park tree.

tyrwhitt road said...

Some years ago, possibly ten or so, the same thing was happening at the corner of Lewisham Way and Tressillian Road where there is a large tree in the front of the College building.

The wall was taken down the roots trimmed, bonsai style and the wall rebuilt.

The tree still seems healthy after all this time and the wall has not moved again and is also fine. I suspect they may have put some root barrier or other in but why can't this approach be adopted here?

If it is too expensive make the alternative be to look after and replace if necessary any new trees for the life of the PFI contract...that will make their money centric managers think.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

@Brockley Jon

We should have time after the CCTV site visit to take the tree officer to view the trees at Upper Brockley Road, as I'll be looking around Tanners Hill to view other sites for other trees that were agreed from the Brockley Localities Fund.

For some reason I hadn't really linked all the tree fellings on that sheet and realised that our PFI 'partners' are proposing the hacking down of so many trees. Just as well the storms we've had this winter weren't so bad as they might have come crashing down and caused some serious damage.

Dean

Tressillian James said...

http://acolnet.lewisham.gov.uk/ACOLLATEDOCS/32679_1.pdf

There's the link - I hope it works. If not go to the application link posted in the original blog and then click on 'documents'. It's there in all its glory.

Tressillian James said...

The link doesn't work - probably because it is to a PDF. As said - go to the original post, click on the link, then click on 'documents'

Headhunter said...

TJ - The link works fine on my computer although I notice that at the bottom of the pdf doc it says "continued...", however it doesn't continue. Looks like a lot of the trees they are planning to fell are actually in front or rear gardens.

The solution that "tyrwhitt road" suggests sounds interesting. I expect the council would reject it grounds of cost. They seem so strapped for cash these days despite council tax hikes or recent years

Brockley Jon said...

Here the link they're talking about, for those who can't see it all.

Brockley Jon said...

...and yes, HH, it is somewhat ominous that it says "continued" but then we don't get to see the rest!

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

If this is posted on the lewisham planning website then I would argue a case for delaying the tree felling on the basis that the public were not adequately consulted (as the doc. says continued but having missing pages). Anyone want to suggest that to the planning dept? If nothing else, it could delay the planned action.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

Jon & others took the chance to look at these trees with Lewisham's Arborcultural Officers.

The officers were certainly of the opinion that althought the wall was damaged it wasn't clear that the trees needed to be taken down or were indeed unsafe. Closer inspection of the wall showed repairs have been made sucessfully in the past and that if you look along the wall you can some descrepancies suggesting that it is not as 'original' as might seem.

There appears to be another way!

Anyway the final decision is down to Sheila Yates who will consider the relevant evidence and make a decision towards the end of April.

In looking towards the wider issues, I have asked the Cabinet to confirm how many trees the Brockley PFI have chopped down or propose to chop down. It seems as if the PFI may not be taking full recognition of the amenity value of the trees both to Lewisham's tenants and others alike.

Thanks

Dean

Amanda said...

It is REALLY important that the decision makers are made aware of the importance and value of trees. Yes trees, can be a temporary nuisance; leaves, 'bulging' but the wider benefits, aesthetically, environmentally play a huge part in general wellbeing of people and their areas.

Please do not cut trees in urban areas unless it is of extreme problems. Tree removal should be the absolute final option.

lb said...

Isn't the whole tree-chopping-down epidemic ultimately to do with insurance companies, though?

See this, for an example.

Amanda said...

Well you know what, I think there needs to be some awareness brought to this situation. A league table of insurance companies who go for the removal of trees as a option to claims.

I think the 'winner' of the league should be given some appropiate award or asked to donate funds to a tree planting scheme.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Yes IB, thats my view point too. The council would not go out of its way to chop down trees as they represent the people (the council not the trees!) however up against big insurance companies (who have much deeper pockets) the council is mostly always faced with being on the losing side.

Faced with either fighting and losing, or simply just losing. A council may just give in to save money otherwise spent on lawyers.

I've made this point numerous times now IB, check some of my other posts about this.

lb said...

I think they pretty much all do it now, Amanda. It's the kind of thing that it would be extremely difficult for the government to regulate without introducing laws which the companies would fight tooth and nail, given that trees have now been identified as a 'soft touch' in insurance claims.

lb said...

I think the Guardian article states the problem fairly succinctly: if you have a tree that may cause damage, insurers will refuse to cover you against claims for subsidence, damage etc.

Amanda said...

Hmm, well I think we have something akin to market failure here and the government needs to step in.

It appears insurance companies are ultimate decision makers in this, but there is little scope for affecting their decisions, so we need the law.

Tressillian James said...

I think my point is all about the consultation here. If I hadn't gone to the document, we woouldn't have known the extent of this, and, as other have pointed out there is a continued page that is not published.

Moreover, it appears the time has run out on consultation - I have sent in a letter regarding the Lewsiahm Way trees (the only ones I knew about at the time) but it doesn't seem to have been recognised.

If Regenter are behind this they do need to hold a public residents meeting about their intentions for the area - things like this were not occuring in the past under the council (and I'm sure the insurance situation was the same).

I think we are all getting fed-up, already, of Regenter's commercial attitude - and have every right to know of their regeneration plans for the conservation area.

lb said...

Regenter presumably exists to make money for its shareholders - John Laing, who I'm sure you all know of, and an organisation called Pinnacle (whose "highly talented" board can be found here, for those who're interested).

Given that Regenter's website doesn't mention much else other than a lot of blurb about "delivering local solutions" (which sounds traight out of the pages of Private Eye) and "sustainability", I'd keep a very close eye on them.

Bea said...

Dean - thanks for the update. With ref to Sheila Yates - would you mind clarifying who she is and whether it is worth writing a personal letter / email to her regarding these trees and others mentioned here?

It would be a tragedy for all these trees to go - surely some can be thinned out, reduced in height etc.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

Bea - sorry if it's taken a while to reply.

Sheila (or is it Shirley?) Yates works in the Planning Department - it is her job to advise and I guess ulitmately decide on planning applications received in relation to trees. (BTW in Lewisham all tree applications are decided by officers under delegated powers.)

I had the opportunity to speak with the man from Equipe Ltd - the company arranging for the 'maintenance' of these trees, on Wednesday. Bill explained that he knew of a couple of residents who had supported the chopping down of these trees, and that he had a structural report supporting the hacking down of these trees.

As a result of this conversation, I contacted Sheila again and she has confirmed that Lewisham's own structural engineers will visit the site to provide a report; in addition I have asked Sheila what implications there are given that Lewisham owns the land itself. In this instance Lewisham could of course choose to insure itself.

All the best

Dean

Ros said...

On a positive note (I think!) - yesterday I received an email from Sheila Yates, the Tree Officer at the planning department, saying that a Tree Preservation Order has been imposed on the four plane trees. As I understand it, a TPO means they need permission to cut the trees down if they can prove they are dangerous, or it's in the national interest to remove them, for example, to build a motorway!

Sheila Yates was replying to an email I sent her telling her that over 50 people signed a petition this weekend objecting to the removal of the trees.

It was very good to talk to so many positive and supportive local people while I was collecting signatures - and thank you to everyone who signed.

Sheila Yates said that the petition can now be used if there are objections to the TPO.

Bea said...

Ros - that's really good news!

Ros said...

I have just received a letter from Sheila Yates at the Planning Department which says the following:-

"Fell four London Plane trees at 158a Lewisham Way, SE4.

Thank you for your petition on the above proposal, which will be taken into account when this matter is considered.

The majority of applications are decided by Senior Planning Officers under delegated authority.

You can also phone to find out the names of other objectors once the time period for making written comments has passed, or to obtain a leaflet explaining more fully the process and guidance for objectors.

Would you please notify the other signatories to the petition advising them of this letter.

Yours sincerely etc."

It would be great if anyone who signed the petition and is reading this, could tell any fellow local signatories about the letter - as suggested by Sheila Yates. I will do my best to tell as many people as I can myself.

Also - at the risk of repeating my last comment posted here - Sheila Yates emailed me recently to say that a Tree Preservation Order had been imposed on the four trees - I guess until the "Senior Planning Officers" make their decision?

There's no apparent deadline dates given.....I think once a TPO is made it "usually takes immediate effect, but can be confirmed or terminated at any time up to six months' time, with or without modifications" according to www.naturenet.net/trees/tpo.htp

Anonymous said...

Saw a group of five ID-badged people examining the plane trees and wall this morning. Probably Regenter types working on their challenge to the preservation order?
It's really frustrating that nobody's looking at the trees in relation to the other problems in that area. I hate the phrase joined-up thinking but shouldn't someone take an overview of the threatened trees / anti-social behaviour / gun crime and try and work out a solution rather than the current piecemeal approach?

Tamsin said...

What happened on these trees?
The issue has raised its head again in Jerningham Road where residents have received a letter from the Coucil saying that a plane tree is due to be cut down because of complaints (admittedly repeated ones) of the insurers of a nearby house. The trouble is that the loss is creeping and insidious, the trees go one by one and are not necessarily replaced appropriately - or the replacements are subject to vandalism.
We have notified the Telegraph Hill Ward Councillors, but comments from Cllr. Walton would be appreciated too.

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