House extension plan approved despite council officers imposing tree protection order on three sycamores

Council chiefs have denied they use tree protection measures on ‘whim’ as an excuse to reject applications.

Thursday, 12th December 2019, 11:45 am
House extension plan approved despite council officers imposing tree protection order on three sycamores

Durham County Council’s planning department recommended plans for a home extension in Hatfield Place, Peterlee, be turned down after they placed Tree Protection Orders (TPOs) on three sycamores on the site earlier this year.

But councillors chose to dismiss the advice and instead approved the proposals, which will also see a plot of ‘public open space’ converted into a private garden for the house.

“The applicant needs permission to remove two trees previously planted by the old district council or development corporation,” said Coun Audrey Laing, who represents the county’s Peterlee East division.

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“Initially planning officers seemed happy with them being removed, however the planning officers later changed their minds and insisted all trees should be retained.

“I say the TPO has been put in purely so the planning officers have grounds to object to this application.”

Coun Laing was speaking at a meeting of the county council’s planning committee for central and East Durham on Tuesday, December 10.

Coun Laing is usually a full member of the panel, but excused herself from voting after making her submission. and had also been lobbied by the applicant, named in paperwork as Darrell Harris.

A TPO is supposed to stop a tree being cut down or altered in any way without permission from the local authority and was thought necessary due to the trees’ ‘high amenity value’ and the ‘detrimental impact’ their loss would have on the area.

Principal planning officer Alan Dobie said: “We investigated further with the tree officer, who had concerns about the loss of the trees and who then decided they warranted protecting.

“These decisions are carefully thought through and there’s a formal scoring system for trees based on their condition and life expectancy.

“Clearly the application itself presented a potential threat to these trees and that was the reason for imposing the TPO – it wasn’t just on the whim of planners.”

However, the committee voted 6-4 in favour of the plans.