Thanet council has issued a decision of ‘no objection’ to the felling of a mature Sycamore tree in the Old Town which had been the subject of a campaign to save it.
Members of Mature Trees Matter, alongside Thanet Trees group, had protested at plans to chop down the tree and a ‘notice of liability’ had been sent to the council by group members.
Campaigners say they will now pursue legal action over the decision.
The application was submitted by Duns Developments, based in Luton, for removal of the tree to clear the site ahead of building a four-storey property with five flats and a commercial unit.
The area the tree is in was one of two plots that were earmarked as garden sites under a Countdown to Turner scheme in 2011.
However despite a spend of £7,881 on design, consultation and soil sample for the site and another at Cobbs Place, the gardens did not come to fruition.
The Duke Street site eventually went to auction as part of the council’s asset disposal programme in 2017 and was bought for an astonishing £270,000, way above the £70,000 guide price. The site formed part of a larger redevelopment scheme known as the Queen’s Arms Yard.
An application was lodged with Thanet council in November 2017 to build a shop and seven flats on the ‘scrubland’ at Duke Street. This was approved in June 2018, with some amendments, including a reduction in the number of flats.
The plot has since been to auction a further two times.
Thanet Trees group this month urged councillors to call in the decision to go to planning committee. Last year the group launched a campaign to save the tree from being lost due to the development. An objection lodged by the group says the mature tree is much needed and in a Conservation Area.
Questions were also raised over what happened to the community garden plan and where the pot of money for it has now gone.
A decision notice published today (April 26) regarding the felling says 68 letters of representation were received raising issues of the need to retain the tree and its value for wildlife and the climate.
However, the officer recommendation was to raise no objection despite the tree’s healthy condition due to the existing planning permission for the site.
A decision report says: “The sycamore is a large mature tree which appears to be in a healthy condition which provides positive amenity value in the Conservation area. This tree is one of few remaining mature trees in Margate Old Town.
“The amenity value of the tree in the Conservation area is therefore given weight in the consideration of this determination. The tree has also been cited as providing a habitat for wildlife and potential flood prevention measures. Also outlined is that the council has declared a Climate emergency and pledged to do what is within its powers and resources to make Thanet District Council as a local authority carbon neutral by 2030.
“The site of the tree has an extant planning permission for the development of a 4 storey building for 4No. 1 bedroom and 1No. 2 bedroom flats along with 1No. commercial unit on the ground floor. The site also is allocated in the Local Plan as a housing site for development and has a previous approval for built form development.
“It is considered that the tree has some amenity value, however, it is also appreciated that within the previous consented scheme the tree would also have been lost. In this case, whilst it is regrettable that the tree would be lost as part of this proposal, it would be very difficult to develop the site and retain the tree.
“The notice form states the intention of the applicant is to implement the extant planning permission. Therefore, taking into account the comments raised in support of serving a Tree Preservation Order on the tree in question, and the amenity value of the tree and duty to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of this Conservation Area, it is considered that it is not expedient to serve a TPO.”
Campaigner Dosh Archer, who has been drawing up a legal case, said: “Given that Thanet District Council have declared a Climate Emergency it is shocking news that they have sanctioned the destruction of one of the last remaining healthy trees in Old Town Margate. “It is even more shocking when you consider that Thanet has one of the lowest street coverages in the country at just 4.4%.
“We will now step up our legal campaign to hold Thanet District Council accountable for both the destruction of the tree and the misuse of public funds regarding the community garden.”