Tree toppling sparks action

COURT action is to be taken against housebuilder Wilcon Homes for allegedly felling four protected trees at Purdis Farm.Some 65 households have now formed an action group to fight development of the area, which they fear could lead to a unique housing area being ruined and a site of special scientific damaged.

By Richard Cornwell

COURT action is to be taken against housebuilder Wilcon Homes for allegedly felling four protected trees at Purdis Farm.

Some 65 households have now formed an action group to fight development of the area, which they fear could lead to a unique housing area being ruined and a site of special scientific damaged.

The Bucklesham Road Action Group – BRAG – has written to Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer to seek his support in their fight to protect the area.

Suffolk Coastal council's development control sub committee agreed to prosecute Wilcon Homes Anglia Ltd, part of the Wilson Connolly group, after four holly trees were axed in Bucklesham Road.

The mature trees, protected by a Tree Preservation Order, were part of a 60-year-old hedge.

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The hedge and its trees were razed just four days before councillors were due to visit the site to inspect it and decide on planning permission for 33 new homes.

The developers wanted the hedge removed to provide access to the proposed estate, but the hedge was crucial to residents' opposition to the scheme.

They said it contributed to the rural nature of the road and wanted negotiations to continue to create a shared access with the golf club a short distance away.

Wilson Connolly has since said that the holly trees had been axed by mistake, and vowed to put back new trees of the same type and height as those removed.

Assistant director of planning and leisure for Suffolk Coastal, Bob Chamberlain said officers felt the company should be taken to court under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for an alleged breach of planning control.

"We believe this was unlawful felling and we have witness statements from local residents, and on that basis we feel we should prosecute," he said.

Councillors agreed court action should be taken and seek to ensure that trees of the same age and size were put back.

Councillor Ron Else said: "They have taken down mature holly trees and we need them replaced like for like, otherwise these companies will never take any notice of Tree Preservation Orders. An apology is not sufficient.

"We cannot have mature trees removed and saplings costing pennies put back. These need to be expensive trees with a large root ball."

Graham Balfe, secretary of BRAG, said the group had written to Mr Gummer and also the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Greenways and Sandlings projects, and planning officers to express its concerns about the area.

It was feared more housing – gardens are likely to be used for homes, and some properties will be demolished – would put pressure on the nearby site of special scientific interest, and development was against policy.

"The area is a typical 1930s-1950s development, which we feel is of unique historical importance comprising large houses on large plots in a rural area incorporating mature woodlands," he said.

WEBLINK: www.wilcon.co.uk

www.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

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