• CarolineShah

Kingston Council - "Don't tell the trees, because the trees don't have to know"

Policies to protect trees and Kingston's "leafy character" are being ignored by officers

Kingston Council avoided addressing the full effect on trees of their planned new larger footprint leisure centre with its increased hardstanding in their report to Planning Committee when the latter approved the plans on 26 May 2022

Did council officers assume that the trees and residents don't need to know about the effect of their plans?

Council officers did not properly and in full lay out or address the requirements of London Plan policy G7 or refer Members to the requirement of this policy which, in Part C, requires the

“adequate replacement (of lost trees) based on the existing value of the benefits of the trees removed

Instead, council officers merely stated that trees lost as a result of this application would be replaced on a two for one basis

Officers also did not assess the effect of the cumulative loss of trees, as a result of the fact that the council has already agreed to fell three additional trees on the site in a separate planning application (point 197 of officer report)

You might well ask why a planning application to fell three additional trees was submitted separately

In addition, Condition 19 of the planning application states that new trees shall be maintained for 5 years and – if they die during that period – they shall be replaced during the following planting season

There is no condition attached to the planning application to ensure the long term good health or even survival of new and existing trees on the site

The reason given for the condition being imposed does not respond to policy requirements in any way, being only:

"to ensure the satisfactory appearance on completion of the development”

Moreover, this condition does not meet the requirements of Kingston's Core Strategy policies in relation to protection for trees, which officers also forgot to mention in full to Members of the Planning Committee.

Council officers did not inform Members of a critical part of policy DM10 which states that:

the council will refuse applications that adversely impact upon the leafy character of the Borough where commensurate appropriate replacement is not provided”

The fact that they were not provided with the details of this policy means that Members were not able to consider whether this requirement was breached both by this planning application itself and cumulatively by this planning application with a previously approved application for the felling of three additional mature trees

Whatever the reasons, the question is whether the cumulative loss of five mature trees to be replaced with ten saplings that will only be looked after for five years, and - if replaced during that time - not be looked after beyond the initial five year period, is "commensurate appropriate replacement"?

And what about the cumulative impact of the loss of five mature trees on the "leafy character of the Borough" in a development that will involve the loss of nearly 1200 sqaure metres of protected open space, a larger and higher building and more hardstanding and with no guarantee whatsoever that the replacement trees will even survive?

Don't tell the trees, because it is better that the trees don't know

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