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Tree Preservation Orders – Do they work?

September 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Written and edited by Christine and John Mason

4989 Stoke Lodge Lucombe Oak T1 - Quercus x hispanicus

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an Order made by a Council in respect of a tree(s) because the tree is considered to bring amenity value to the surrounding area. The Order makes it an offence to cut down, uproot, prune, lop or damage the tree in question without first obtaining the Council’s consent. A TPO can apply to a single tree, a group of trees or woodland.

Often such Orders are stimulated by planning applications when local concern is focused on an area under threat of change.

If a protected tree is removed, uprooted or destroyed in contravention of a TPO it is the duty of the landowner to plant another tree of an appropriate size and species, at the same place, as soon as he/she reasonably can.

But who ‘polices’ these actions and what penalties can occur? The Local Planning Authority is responsible for issuing a TPO, initially a provisional one that is then either confirmed to provide long term protection, not confirmed or modified. The penalties for contravention, on conviction in a Magistrate’s Court, is a fine of up to £20,000, and could be unlimited if taken to a higher Court.

This would indicate that TPO’s are seen as an important piece of legislation that should be taken seriously. Whilst the public seem to rely on TPO’s do the Council’s that are charged with carrying out the administration of such Orders actions actually match up to these expectations?

There have been four local occasions in my memory where a TPO has been the cause of controversy locally. One 20/30 years ago in Hockley, where if memory serves me correctly, the builder removed trees with TPO’s to facilitate a planning application and was served a hefty fine. Another more recently in Hawkwell where the land owner correctly applied for permission to cut the canopy but the work was allegedly unsupervised and resulted in a visual damage that will not be corrected by nature for many years. The resultant diminished canopy helped permit a planning application for buildings to be agreed.

Again in Hawkwell, this time on the David Wilson Homes/Barratts Site a protected tree was cut down in January. Despite our requests to Council Officers to arrange for a replacement tree of appropriate size and species to be planted in the same place nothing has yet been done. The TPO legislation states that the replacement should be planted as soon as it reasonably can. Our understanding is that this has not been undertaken nor has any penalty been applied for.

More recently a provisional TPO has been placed on an Oak Tree on the boundary of 169/177 Main Road due to concerns of neighbours who feel that a planning application may threaten the tree in question. John and I are concerned that should work be undertaken on the travelling canopy, with permission, that the Council’s own tree specialist is present to ensure the work is performed to a suitable standard and so that errors of the past are not repeated. You can’t stick branches back on! Whilst the owner is always responsible for looking after a protected tree the local authority should be able to offer help and advice on how the tree/s are managed.

Generally speaking permission is always needed from the local planning authority to work on a tree covered by a TPO order unless it comes under the one of the special exceptions.

However John and I both remain concerned that although “the words” of TPO’s would seem to protect these special trees this does not always happen in the way it should.

If you think a tree needs to be protected or a tree with a TPO is being worked on please call us or Brian Clary at Rochford District Council.

 

Spin, Dirty Tricks and Expenses

May 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the characteristics of an independent councillor is the ability to speak out without political reprisal.  True or Untrue? I’ll let you be the judge. You have a right to know directly from me all about the issues that are affecting your local councillor who is trying to do a good job representing you, rather than someone else.

Residents in the wake of revelations about our MP’s are now turning to our local councillors.  The Rochford Lib Dems published the “Councillors’ Allowance Claims April 2007 – March 2008” on their web site at http://onlinefocus.org/?p=1277 if you want to read the detail. Rochford District Council will be publishing updated figures for 2009 very shortly.

Last year the very basic allowance for any councillor, taxable and subject to NI, was £4135. I cannot speak for the others but I was reimbursed against full invoices for travel expenses and child care for under sixteens for the additional sum of £531, making £4,666 overall. As residents of Hawkwell know, I do not drive, and because we have no evening bus I have to take a taxi to council meetings. Sometimes, I am offered a lift by one of the Conservative Councillors.  And I gratefully accept to keep the bill down.

I have campaigned for our 8 bus service for 15 years now and I was so dissappointed when it became only an hourly service.

I was even more disappointed when my campaign came to a halt because I was reported to the Standards Committee for an offence under the Code of Conduct for an email I had sent to the parish council asking them to join in the campaign.  Bizarely, the complaint was that being a non driver, and bus user, I had a prejudicial/pecuniary interest and should not be campaigning. The Council’s Standards Committee ordered an investigation even though, I understand, that the Council’s Solicitor advised against it.  Needless to say this trumped up charge was eventually dismissed but for several months I could not campaign.  I believe that this contributed to our loss of our half hourly bus.

On the bus issue I have agreed to meet with our existing County Councillor and the current Portfolio Holder in Hawkwell after the County Council elections.  If they are not re-elected then I will engage with whoever is elected to represent us but the existing Conservative team did promise me that they had some good ideas based on the new legislation.

So far I have talked about Expenses and Spin.  What about Dirty Tricks?  Last summer a call was made to my home by the Evening Echo saying that they had been informed that I was being investigated by the Environment Agency for fly tipping. In October I finally learnt that Rochford District Council had been secretly investigating me over several months. Verbally, they said, that was the end of the allegation.  But after liasing with the Environment Agency I have now requested that a full report is made to me by Rochford District Council about their secret investigation.

Stop Press, 25 June 2009:  RDC has now responded to my FOI request. Here is an extract from a letter that I sent to All Members of RDC.  

It is, perhaps, not surprising that it has taken some time to resolve the issue completely because I have now been supplied with an email exchanged within RDC which says “The EA think this is political and are wary of doing anything else.”

But the final line of Graham Woolhouse’s response to the FOI request is the one which closes the matter.  “I am able to confirm that the site visits last summer did not reveal any statutory nuisance from fly tipping of green waste nor were you at any stage investigated.”

I don’t think that anyone thinks that it is easy being an independent in local politics. It certainly is not. The identity of the complainant has not been revealed to me because of The Data Protection Act  but if The Environment Agency has said that they thought that this was political then I feel that the identity should be released . 

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