In its role as the Local Planning Authority, Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) ensures adequate provision for the preservation and planting of trees when granting planning permission, by making Tree Protection Orders (TPOs), and by imposing conditions requiring protective measures and landscaping as appropriate.
MVDC has a number of policies that deal with trees, landscaping and sustainable green infrastructure. These include saved Local Plan Policy ENV53 - Trees in the Built-up Areas.
Core strategy policies that relate to trees and development are:
The Core Strategy can be downloaded from this page.
The National Planning Policy Framework, which includes a section on 'Conserving and enhancing the natural environment', can be viewed on the Government website using the link on this page.
Trees are particularly vulnerable to damage on development sites. They may be affected, either immediately if removal or pruning is necessary to accommodate a development, or in the longer term as a result of disturbance during the development process. There may also be demands to remove or prune trees from the occupants of new buildings. Given the benefits that trees provide from an amenity, and more general environmental perspective, MVDC tries to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between the need and desire for further development within the District, with the impact that this may have on trees and the landscape.
In considering development on any site, all trees, whether protected or otherwise, along with large shrubs, hedges and screening, must be given proper consideration at an early stage. As such, all trees and significant boundary screening should be indicated on proposals plans, along with any landscaping. This may take the form of a full tree impact assessment produced by a specialist tree consultant, including constraints plans and tree protection method statements in accordance with the current British Standard 5837 (Trees in Relation to Construction - Recommendations) or, on a very small site, might be incorporated into the design and access statement.
It is currently not considered appropriate to down-grade the British Standard 5837 category of trees on development sites due to the potential risk of infection by Chalara, but an infected one will be.
A 2012 Plant Health Order banned the movement of Ash plants, and therefore no Ash species can be approved in landscape schemes. Since any existing schemes that include Ash cannot be fully implemented due to the ban, planting proposals should be modified, and can be dealt with simply as a minor amendment by using replacement species or increasing the numbers of other trees already listed.
Tree Preservation Order (TPO) Applications
The implications of the disease are still unknown, so it is not felt necessary to fell healthy trees. Mature Ash trees appear to be more resistant and it may well be that diseased mature trees do not need to be felled. Therefore, applications for consent to fell unaffected trees remain to be judged on their own merits, and the potential for infection by Chalara will not be a significant consideration.
Trees confirmed to be infected by Chalara will again be judged on their merits against the likely outcome of infection, the value of disease control, and the theory that mature trees may provide a source of resistant stock. Felling infected trees under Statutory Plant Health Orders will be an exception.
Conservation Area Tree (CAT) Notices
As with TPO applications, CAT notifications to fell unaffected trees will be judged on the merits of each case, and the potential for infection by Chalara will not be a significant consideration. Applications for the felling of infected trees will again be judged on the merits of disease control.
Dead and Dangerous Trees Exemptions
The Council must be given 5 days written notice of exempt works on protected trees to remove dead trees and parts that pose an immediate risk. Felling required under a Plant Health Order is an exception, and depending upon circumstances, the grubbing out of recently planted Ash infected by Chalara may be an exception as the disease appears to be affecting young trees. Otherwise, outside of a Plant Health Order, the felling of infected trees will not be an exception by virtue of infection alone.
New Tree Preservation Orders
Until further notice, the potential risk of infection by Chalara will not be considered a significant justification for not making a TPO, although a confirmed case of Chalara is likely to be a significant factor weighing against making an Order, and a tree with a Plant Heath Order against it would not be made the subject of a TPO.