Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Plan to chop down 52 trees for block of flats thrown out

Plan to chop down 52 trees for block of flats thrown out

PLANS to remove at least 52 trees to make way for a block of flats in Henley have been thrown out.

More than 300 people objected to Terence Bingham’s application for permission to build a two-storey building on land he owns north of Parkside.

The block would have had eight flats with parking spaces.

The developer said it would be a sensitive scheme and meet housing need but opponents said it would destroy a habitat occupied by several protected species.

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, rejected the application on the advice of planning officer Simon
Kitson.

He said the area of woodland was covered by a tree preservation order which did not fall within the built-up limits of the settlement and was not a site allocated for residential development under the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Mr Kitson added: “The application does not demonstrate that there is an overriding public justification for the extension of built development into the countryside. The scale, bulk and massing of the proposed building would be at odds with the built form within the locality. This would be exacerbated by the extensive tree removal and landscaping works.

“The proposal would erode the undeveloped, sylvan character of the site, materially harming the rural landscape character of this part of Henley.

“The proposed development would result in the direct loss of a significant area of priority habitat woodland to development and would also introduce anthropogenic disturbance to the retained woodland.

“There are no overriding, demonstrable public benefits associated with the residential development of this site which would outweigh the ecological harm likely to be caused.”

Colin and Trish Cooper, who live at the nearest house to the site, said the woodland was one of Henley’s “hidden gems”.

It was home to badgers, bats and birds and visited by deer, foxes, owls, red kites and ravens.

Mr Cooper said: “We welcome this decision as it vindicates the 315 Henley residents who objected to cutting down the woodland. The people of Henley value the wealth of trees in and around the town and want to see them enhanced, not reduced.

“This land should never be developed. It is important both for the trees and the habitat supporting wildlife.”

Henley Town Council opposed the application, saying the site was not allocated for development in the neighbourhood plan and was protected as a priority habitat that provided an important wildlife corridor.

It said the development would result in the loss of a significant number of mature trees covered by a tree preservation order.

The Henley Society, a heritage group, said the proposed flats would be out of character with the area and would have a “serious” impact on a wildlife habitat.

Objector Michala Daly, of Ancastle Green, Henley, called the plans “barbaric”, saying they would destroy precious countryside.

She said: “Our woodlands and trees have been here thousands of years. We do not need to be making developers rich, we need to be preserving our surroundings for ourselves, wildlife and future generations of both.” Paul Fairweather, from Rotherfield Greys, said: “Cutting down one of the only areas of mature woodland in Henley would be an act of ecological vandalism on a par with the destruction of the rainforest in Brazil.

“There are lots of better sites in the town for building residential accommodation or indeed the conversion of existing and no-longer-useful retail premises into residential.”

Douglas Bond, the developer’s agent, said that of the trees to be removed, 13 were of moderate quality and 37 were of low quality. Two others would have been removed for “arboricultural management reasons”.

All the trees on the edge of the site in public view would have been retained and new native trees would be planted. The plans included a range of ecological enhancement measures which aimed to increase the biodiversity value of the site.

Mr Bond said: “The scheme represents a sensitive development that will meet a particular need for Henley without harming the character and appearance of the area or the sylvan character of the site.

“This is due to the sensitive location of the apartment building in the centre of the site.”

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