Redlands – revised plans ignore Tree Protection Orders and proper planning procedures

See here for background on the proposed Redlands development.

SBC agreed in January 2020’s full council meeting to a target of 30% tree coverage, up from the current 8%. How can this be achieved if we continue to fell trees for housing developments?

Trees are a home for wildlife,they release oxygen and use carbon dioxide. They can also prevent erosion and flooding. Removing trees and bushes contributes to climate change and loss of biodiversity, causing environmental collapse. Sharing the housing we have, developing on brownfield sites and housing regeneration are better options.

Over 70 trees with Tree Protection Orders in place will be felled if full permission is granted for the revised proposals for the Redlands development. It begs the question, what good are Tree Protection Orders if they can be ignored? Planting new trees is beneficial but will take many years to provide the same benefits as mature trees, as habitat and as part of a healthy ecosystem. So far, permission has been granted to fell 11 individual trees, a group of Ash trees and 100m of hedge. Planning procedures set out by the consultant ecologist have been ignored. Furthermore, the UK has national Planning Inspectors who can overturn local decisions to refuse planning applications. We urgently need strong laws in place to protect our environment.

Redlands copse

The following are points of objection made by one of the Highworth residents who lives close to the site:

Protection of the environment
Although the newly revised plans now retain the copse which is welcomed, the plan still involves the felling of over 70 trees. All these trees have Tree Protection Orders giving legal protection across the site and their importance has already been recognised by planning officers in the outline planning permission. Within the Highworth Neighbourhood Plan, residents imposed the condition that trees and hedges are to be retained if the Redlands site is developed. The suggestion that these can be replaced by saplings is ridiculous and is against all the current efforts being made globally to avoid unnecessary destruction of trees and natural habitat of wildlife. Highworth Town Council have recently (January 21st 2020) declared a Climate and Environmental Emergency. The trees are an important feature of the local environment and should be protected in light of the deepening global ecological crisis.

The area is an important ecosystem and home to many species of wildlife including badgers, foxes, deer, bats, slow-worms and over 60 species of bird, including many on the ‘threatened’ red list.

The Ecology Report dated 23 Oct 2019 by Des Hobson Swindon Borough Consultant Ecologist – the findings of this report have not been covered by the new proposal from the developer. For example the following extracts from the Ecology Report remain true:

‘Para 75 of the National Planning Policy Framework says: “When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should apply the following principles: a) if significant harm to biodiversity resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts), adequately mitigated, or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused.” From the information provided, I have seen nothing to suggest that biodiversity loss from the removal of 97 trees (plus other ecological impacts) can be mitigated, or biodiversity net gain can be achieved. The scale of adverse ecological impact suggests that too many houses are being squeezed onto this site. As this is a significantly different application in ecological terms from that previously approved, it needs to be accompanied by a new Ecological Impact Assessment following guidelines published by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.‘

A full season of bat surveys should be completed prior to determination of this Reserved Matters application, in accordance with the Bat Conservation Trust survey guidelines’

‘A Construction Environment Management Plan is needed prior to determination showing how ecological features will be protected.’

Badger Sett
It appears that the Badger Sett(s) in the north of the site are being destroyed and there is some sort of “Artificial Sett” being proposed on the boundary with Redlands Close in Public Open Space area 1. Again the Ecology Report stated that:
‘The Ecological Impact Assessment will also need to consider the impact on badgers, which are on site, assess cumulative impacts from other potential developments around, and show how badgers will be accommodated on site. As the site layout has changed the impact on badgers needs to be reassessed.’
However, no details have been provided by the developer.’

There are further objections around the quality of housing provided, lack of traffic plan and effects on residents.