Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Tree vandalism in the woods

Update, Thu 16 July 09, reply received from CCC:
"I visited the site the day after receiving your e mail. I spoke to the workmen who told me that they were working on a site in Aberystwyth that day, because they could not reach the Bronpadarn site as the Gaz Men had closed the access by digging trenches. This has been confirmed by the Police who were called in by a Doctor who lives on site and could not go out on to the main road.The workmen received a call from Ben Davies(ex County Councillor) who lives nearby . He had seen smoke coming from the direction of the trees, he also saw 2 young. lads running away.I have since interviewed Ben who has confirmed the above. He also witnessed the workmen struggling for about 40 minutes trying to put the fire out. I have interviewed the men further since my chat with Ben and I have no reason to believe that they are lying. As far as the trees are concerned, Ben feels that they will recover as did a similar tree that he has in his garden which also went on fire a few years ago Again sorry for the delay in getting back to you."

The depressing housing development in the Llanbadarn Fawr Woods (planning application A080487, by Mr M Fenton) took a twist last week. One of the grounds for objection had been the inevitable damage that would follow if Ceredigion County Council allowed Mr Fenton to build more houses in this sensitive woodland location. Last week they were proved right when a number of trees were badly burned.

On Saturday, July 04, 2009, CIN received an email saying:
"I thought you may be interested to know that the builders in Bronpadarn have caused severe damage to trees with fire. Major damage is to a palm but they have also set fire to the Ginkgo."
On investigation it was found that the palm appeared to have been completely destroyed – the whole trunk was black. About 30% of the extremely rare and old Gingko Biloba had been damaged, and the leaves on the adjacent mature copper beech had also been burnt, along with vegetation on the other side of the driveway. The palm trees and Gingko Biloboa are in a protected tree zone, and the whole area is in a conservation area.

Burnt palm

Fire damage reached across the driveway

Closeup of burnt beech leaves

Trees burnt in the supposed 'protection zone'

Ceredigion County Council and the local councillor were informed of this violation of the planning violation. The Planning Permission document, paragraph 4 says:
"The development works shall be carried out strictly in accordance with the recommendations of the arboricultural impact assessment by Tirlun Barr Associates."
Those recommendations were for the trees to be protected, not burnt. In addition, paragraph 6 of that document states:
"the area of garden bed, as indicated in the Tirlun Barr report, will be fenced prior to works commencing on all 3 sides to create an enclosed area outside the project working corridor in order to create a tree protective zone. ... No access of plant machinery or material storage will be permitted within the fenced area."
This area was to be protected, yet somehow the trees within this zone have been burnt, possibly beyond survival. The builders/developer had also dumped burnt bits from the palm tree over the side of the public right of way in the dingle. This is not only irresponsible but also littering the woods.

Burnt vegetation dumped over the edge of the ravine by the builders

Unfortunely, this type of action was exactly what was feared by local residents who love the natural area of Bronpadarn woods. They feared it would be damaged, and, unfortunately, their fears have come true. The developer had made a number of planning applications, and the mature trees had been a factor in preventing them. So who stands to gain from these trees being burnt?

The Welsh Historic Gardens Trust was concerned about the potential landscape impact of the proposed dwelling and associated works on the historic garden of Plas Bronpadarn. In particular the threat to the Gingko tree and mature specimen copper beech trees that is posed by the development and subsequent occupation of the dwelling.

Significantly, in the Council's own document approving the planning, the following statement was made:
"There is the apprehension that these protected trees (including the rare and exotic gingko biloboa) would be damaged and threatened both during the construction and renovation work, and subsequently once the dwelling had come into occupation."
Yet the Council's weak conclusion was: "Therefore it is concluded that the effect of the proposal on the protected trees is acceptable."

Clearly, the effects of development have had a detrimental impact on the trees and this is unacceptable. Ceredigion County Council were asked to immediately halt the development on this site, to order an investigation into the fire, and for this planning violation to be treated with the utmost seriousness.

So far there has been no official reply from the Council, and an email sent to them on 5 July marked as 'urgent' had still not received a reply ten days later.

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