Veteran trees help to halt green field housing development

Recognition of the need to protect veteran trees was among the reasons given by Havant Borough Council for refusing permission to build 36 houses on a green field site in Emsworth, (Westwood Close field, APP/18/00672).

Article by Melinda Griffin – originally published in the Havant Borough Tree Wardens newsletter “About Trees” August 2019. It is important as a case study of how ancient trees can affect planning applications. (Havant Borough is in south east Hampshire.)

Initial Tree Officer opinion had been that the trees and part of the hedge to be removed were of “low quality” and made little contribution to local character. No objection to their removal.”

However, in the 2019 Delegated Report recommending refusal of the application, the Tree Officer noted that two Field Maples and the two oaks within the hedgerow had now been officially listed as ‘veteran’ on the Ancient Tree Inventory. Consequently, the Tree Officer objected to the felling of the two Field Maples (which have an estimated age of 300 years).

Ancient Field Maple (at one time coppiced and now a sculptured survivor).
Photo: Malinda Griffin

The Tree Officer also noted that the root protection area (RPA) of the two Oaks had to be amended to give a minimum of 15 times the stem diameter for veteran trees or 5 metres beyond the canopy (which ever is the greater).

Until this revision has taken place, the Tree Officer objects to positioning two houses within that RPA.

In summary, HBC’s Tree Officer, following the trees’ “new classification”, advised that the Council should be in tune with national policy and raise objection to any harm to the veteran trees.

The Tree Officer advice to object to any harm concluded with a statement from the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework): “Ancient woodland, ancient trees and veteran trees are irreplaceable. Consequently you should not consider proposed compensation measures as part of your assessment of the merits of the development proposal.”

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