New Developments should be built around existing trees

Bristol’s planning policy BCS9 (p.74 of the Bristol Development Strategy Core Framework) states that “Individual green assets should be retained wherever possible and integrated into new development”. Thus, existing trees, especially where they are on the edge of the site, should be incorporated into development proposals.

The advantages in retaining trees will be a much easier ride through the planning process and local support rather than strong opposition. In addition, the subsequent development will be much higher quality and would instantly benefit from any mature trees that are on the site

Development of a site on Lower Ashley Road in St Pauls has been delayed for at least 18 months so far due to strong local opposition to the removal of the maple trees that border the site. Of the seven trees shown on our blog only one now remains. As far as we are aware, one purchaser of the site has pulled out because of the controversy over the trees and it is unknown what, if anything will now happen to the site. There has been negative press with several articles in The Guardian, Private Eye, the BBC and local media. We estimate that the dispute has taken up thousands of hours of hard-pressed council officer time which could have been easily avoided if planning permission had required the trees (which have Tree Preservation Orders) to be retained. The trees are on the edge of the development site and would have provided valuable screening for new buildings from the noisy and polluted street.

Only one of these seven trees now remains on Lower Ashley Rd, but development has stalled due to the battle over the trees.

Elsewhere in Bristol, permission has now been given to remove trees valued at £4.7m from a site in Bonnington Walk, Lockleaze, despite strong opposition from local people who valued their trees and other green infrastructure. Many more trees could have been retained if the much-needed housing development was built around the existing trees.  Another way of thinking is possible. On this rural site, which is not so different to Bonnington Walk, the development by housing association LiveWest was achieved around the existing trees: planning permission was contingent on a requirement to keep the existing trees

We always see glib promises that more trees will be planted than are removed, with the insinuation that the environment will be better afterwards. In our experience, replanting often fails or, if it does survive, produces meagre results, and take years to replace what is lost, assuming it ever does. Bristol has declared a climate emergency and simply to recover the CO2 lost can take 20-50 years. In contrast, existing trees continue to grow and are always important to the local community and to those who use these public spaces.

It is perfectly possible to build around existing trees. Here are some examples where this has been done. Bristol Tree Forum would like to work in collaboration with any developers that wish to retain the trees on development sites. We will continue to oppose development plans which seek to remove trees on development sites, especially where they are on the edge of the site.

This case study by the Trees and Design Action Group of the Angel Building, Islington, London is headlined “Effective tree protection unlocks planning consent and letting success at the Angel Building
The Oxford University Physics building was set back to allow the retention of an existing tree
The Clifton Suspension Bridge visitor Centre was built around an existing tree with the roof cut away to accommodate a branch.
The  Aurora Building, Counterslip, Bristol is built close to an existing tree

Another way of thinking is possible.

Vassili Papastavrou, Bristol Tree Forum

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