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GR7  Trees and New Development  Policy

In assessing the protection to be given to trees on development sites the Local Planning Authority will consider the general health, structure, size and life expectancy of trees, their visual value within the locality and their value for nature conservation and will require that buildings, structures and hard surface areas are sited in order to:

(i) substantially preserve the wooded character of the site or of the surrounding area;

(ii) provide for the protection of trees of greatest visual or wildlife value and other vigorous healthy trees;

(iii) ensure that trees to be retained have adequate space in order to prevent damage to their canopy or root structures during construction and to allow for the future growth of canopy and roots to normal mature sizes;

(iv) prevent the removal of trees by occupiers of the development to obtain reasonable sunlight to habitable rooms, secure an open unshaded garden area, or to remove perceived dangers to life and property; and

(v) protect trees on adjacent land which may be affected by the development proposed;

Applications should include detailed plans showing the location of individual trees to be affected by the development proposed, together with information related to trunk girth, species mix, height, canopy spread and general health and condition. Trees to be felled should be clearly indicated.

Where development involving the loss of trees is to be permitted, the Local Planning Authority will, as a condition of planning consent, require replacement trees to be planted elsewhere on the site where this is required in order to protect or preserve local amenity.

Planning conditions will include provision for the future maintenance of newly planted stock, including the replacement of failures, until the newly planted stock is established and capable of normal unaided growth; and during the construction period, measures related to the protection of trees to be retained.

Work to trees, including felling, removal, thinning and crown lifting should be completed prior to construction commencing in accordance with a scheme of work agreed in advance with the Local Planning Authority.

Reasoned justification :

8.35 Trees form a prominent part of the Wirral landscape and comprise an essential feature in the special character of many of Wirral's residential areas. Indeed, even where tree cover is not a distinctive characteristic of a neighbourhood, a single large tree or group of trees can have a significant visual impact within the surrounding area.

8.36 Policy GR7 forms part of the Local Planning Authority's wider responsibility to conserve the natural beauty of the area and to provide for physical improvements to the environment. It also reflects the statutory duty to, wherever appropriate, specifically provide for the preservation and planting of trees when granting planning consent. Policy GR7 does not, however, provide a blanket protection for all trees. Instead, it provides for the circumstances of each site to be considered in terms of its importance within the surrounding area. The objective of Policy GR7 is to ensure that issues related to the health, size, visual significance and the wildlife value of trees are properly assessed before development is permitted or refused.

8.37 In accordance with Policy GR7, trees or woodlands possessing significant visual or wildlife value will normally be retained. However, where it proves necessary to permit the loss of trees, Policy GR7 also requires applicants to undertake replacement planting, especially in order to preserve the wooded character of a site or neighbourhood or in order to protect the amenity of adjacent property.

8.38 The protection, planting and subsequent preservation of trees will normally form the subject of conditions attached to planning consent. These conditions will include provision for the future maintenance of newly planted stock until newly planted trees are properly established and measures to prevent root damage to existing trees from trenches for foundations, cables and other utilities.

8.39 It is not, however, only the development process itself that can lead to the loss of trees. Trees planted too close to buildings or site layouts which are too cramped to provide for the normal growth of trees to maturity can often lead to pressure for their subsequent removal. Policy GR7, therefore, also provides that the siting and layout of new development and new planting is carefully regulated in order to prevent the need to remove trees once the development is complete and occupied.

8.40 While Policy GR7 will mainly apply to trees affected by development proposals located within the urban area, it will also be held to apply to applications for development within the Green Belt. Indeed, within the Green Belt it will often be more important where the need to preserve rural character and protect the wider landscape from the impact of new development is a priority.

8.41 In addition to the powers and duties outlined above, the Local Planning Authority also has the power to issue Tree Preservation Orders where it is "expedient in the interests of amenity". Such an Order provides additional protection to selected trees and woodlands where their removal or cutting would have a significant impact on the environment. While Policy GR7 does not represent a definitive strategy for Tree Preservation Orders, the criteria related to health, size, visual value and nature conservation value will form primary considerations in the issue of new or revised Orders.

8.42 Further advice in relation to Tree Preservation Orders and the presentation of proposals affecting trees is contained within Supplementary Planning Guidance Note 17.