Trees

Article first published in The Colum, December 2018.

Trees, TPOs and their Management – Parish Council / NCC Meeting 14th November 2018, Swarland Village Hall

Because of concerns raised following significant tree damage in recent storms, particularly within the protected tree belts in Swarland along both sides of The Avenue and the south side of Leamington Lane, the PC decided to convene a meeting for residents with NCC Tree Officer (North) Barry Wilson, Planning Technician Esther Ross, and arboricultural consultant Nigel Chopping who lives in the parish and is familiar with Swarland tree cover.

All residents affected by the Woodland Order placed on the tree belts were leafleted and notices were also put on PC and public notice boards in Swarland and NotM.

The specialists explained their roles and provided general information; the floor was then opened to questions. The general feeling of the meeting seemed to be that the Woodland TPO applied to the tree belts causes confusion and uncertainty. Following consultation many years ago, this type of protection was a choice made by members of the community as a move away from TPOs on individual trees in the already protected tree belts in order to maintain the full woodland. The principle is that everything growing in such woodland, including selfseeded trees and shrubs, is protected. However, it is becoming irrelevant where the original understorey of shrubs and flora has already been cleared by residents and replaced by grass to create a garden with trees (though some residents do still maintain original woodland with its characteristic flora). In addition, many residents feel that it challenges common sense, as it is a recipe for over-crowding, resulting in poor quality specimens. The perception is also that even brambles must be left to get on with it, though they choke other plants and inhibit good maintenance. People resent having to make (and pay for) a planning application to carry out routine management such as the removal of spindly saplings arising from readily fertile plants such as holly, sycamore and birch. Many householders also mistakenly believe that TPO‟d trees cannot be touched at all, though the criteria for management work are clearly set out on many websites such as the Government‟s own – www.gov.uk/guidance/tree-preservation-orders-and-trees-in-conservationareas .

Residents are also concerned about those sections of tree belt owned by an absentee landlord, which are clearly in need of management and therefore creating a risk to persons or property.

What is clear is that:

a) The protected tree belts on The Avenue and Leamington Lane (clearly shown in an artist‟s impression dated 1938 of the new settlement) have a long-established amenity value as do trees within a Conservation Area such as Newton on the Moor.

b) Felling or pruning of trees subject to the Woodland Cover or other TPOs cannot be done without submitting a planning application to NCC, supported by a report provided by a tree consultant or tree surgeon. A planning application currently costs £90 regardless of the amount of work applied for within it.

c) There is no easy answer to the question of what can and can‟t be done within a Woodland TPO area; each garden is different with its own issues, and needs to be assessed individually.

d) Within the Conservation Area of Newton on the Moor, wherever tree work is felt to be needed, a TREECA notification should be submitted to the local authority for assessment.

e) A 5-Day Notice is used for urgent work to dead or dangerous (but not dying) trees, where there is imminent danger to persons or property. f) Removing dead wood from the crown of a protected tree does not require consent from NCC.

g) Householders are responsible for the management of all trees on their property, protected or not, and are liable for damage caused by them. An annual inspection by an independent arboricultural consultant or a tree surgeon is recommended. Some people feel a tree surgeon will “find problems‟ to create work, but reputable practitioners are unlikely to do so.

h) Householders should also keep an eye on their own trees, looking out for obvious problems such as broken branches, splits in the bark or trunk, weeping patches and so on.

i) An approved application might include a condition requiring the re-planting of removed trees, though not if the remaining trees will benefit from additional space and light. Replanting must be done within a specified time, and ideally with the same or more appropriate species. [Native trees such as oak and beech host the greatest number of insect species, so to replace an oak with, for example, an infertile Japanese flowering cherry is not sound environmental practice.]

After discussion at the November PC meeting it was agreed that the PC will:

a) have further discussion with Barry Wilson about the most appropriate way to continue to protect the tree belts in Swarland while ensuring that householders are able to manage them effectively;

b) contact the absentee owner of sections of tree belt expressing our concern about their safety;

c) continue to provide information (normally via The Column) about good practice for tree owners.

 

Suzanne Stanley, NotM & S PC.

 

Further Information:

Northumberland County Council information on protected trees.

Government Guidance on Legislation on Tree Preservation orders and trees in Conservation areas