Letter: Trees under attack

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The Independent Culture
Sir: An alarming new trend in residential developments is threatening the "natural balance" in the planning process of this country - the pre- emptive destruction of trees and land ahead of planning applications.

As the law stands, there is no way of seeking redress from the landowner or developer when a pre-emptive strike (chopping down trees before a planning application is lodged) has occurred. The local authorities are not empowered to take any actions other than to assess sites for potential tree protection orders (TPOs).

When a TPO is in place, and it can be shown that a contractor has knowingly flouted the law, the existing fine system presents no more than a minor hiccup to the progress of many developments. Compare for example the maximum pounds 1,000 fine in the context of a pounds 2m development - a value that can be realised with less than a dozen houses.

But not all mature trees have TPOs. These are easy targets and best got rid of as soon as possible. By this process the developer gains a preconditioned site before going on to apply for planning permission. The miserable act is often perpetrated on a Saturday morning to preclude residents contacting the authorities and halting the work.

EMMET DONEGAN

Reading, Berkshire

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