Suffolk House Trees
We wanted to reach out to you, to openly address the decision made by Cardiff Council’s Planning Committee in the removal of the Common Limes and Copper Beech trees fronting Romilly Road. We have read both the supporting views and objections noted by local residents and respect each of the views expressed within these. It is evident that all views have at their heart a keen desire to nurture and better both your local neighbourhood and the wider environment.
As residents of the area you’ll be fully aware of the poor condition of the building and site and we’ve no doubt that your enthusiasm for the renovation and restoration of the buildings, notably the beautiful house itself, is testament to your desire to see the locally listed villa restored to its former glory.
Please let us be clear, we did not acquire the site with the intention of felling the Common Lime and Copper Beech trees. In contrast we believe mature trees aside from the climate and environmental benefits, help give development sites gravitas and grounding into their neighbourhood and enhance their saleability.
The decision to fell these trees is solely down to the retaining wall supporting the trees failing, causing imminent danger to life. We have commissioned arboricultural reports by Treecare Consulting, and engineer’s reports to examine all options prior to felling the trees, which is being undertaken to allow us to re-build the retaining wall.
These reports have been checked by the planning officers and Mr Ed Baker the Cardiff Council Tree Officer. For ease of reference we have added a link to both Mr Pinder of Treecare Consulting’s report (also available under the planning application documentation 18/1064/MJR & 18/0165/MJR and The Planning Committee Webcast which includes the Tree Officer, Mr Baker’s report to the committee. Both give far more detail to the basic principles summarised below, should these be of interest to you.
As owners of the site we have duty of care under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 & 84 and The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the safety of any neighbouring buildings, pedestrians, passing vehicles and workers on site.
In brief, both reports detail that the trees in contention are being held in place by a de-stabilised boundary wall which in turn is only being held up from collapse into the highway and potential pedestrians by a plastic bin bolted to the ground. In Mr Pinder’s words, the trees in question are “forcing the wall towards the road from the combined physical root pressure and displacement of the surrounding soils and structures. As the trees have increased in root mass they have moved the retaining wall to the point of collapse.” As such there is a significant risk to the general public walking past, stood at the bus stop or driving on the highway.
Worse still, should the wall collapse, total tree failure could risk damage to the houses on the far side of Romilly Road. We are sure no-one needs reminding of how busy this road can be, nor the pre-school nursery situated opposite the site.
If we accept that the wall must be rebuilt, we then move on to the affect this will have on the trees being supported by the wall. Whilst Mr Pinder acknowledges that the trees we have been referring to are not in the “dead, dying or dangerous” category he does stress that “crucially they do affect the wall structure.” Furthermore, “Essential work to the wall is highly likely to put them into the dead, dying or dangerous category… due to the levels of rooting area changes that exceed the tolerance the trees could withstand.” To summarise, whilst they themselves are not in physiological decline, they are compromised by the loss of structural support from the boundary wall, which they are in turn causing. “It is understood that eventually the walls structural integrity will be completely lost causing its collapse.”
Investigating the options to remove the wall and retain the trees, which I’m sure we’d all agree would be the ideal scenario, both experts agreed and Mr Baker goes into particular detail as to why practices such as ‘guying’ – artificially propping up the trees during work to the wall, would not be suitable and could actually exacerbate the situation as the tree is encouraged to use this rather than grow adequate root structures. Or ‘reducing crown sail area, weight and leverage’ - where the tree is heavily pruned to reduce the likelihood of falling, would be considered excessive in this case and in breach of British Standards as it is likely to a cause a decline/death of mature trees. For more details please refer to both reports.
Whilst we are disappointed that we have not been able to retain all of the mature trees on the site; we have committed to a comprehensive planting scheme of trees as part of the re-development which will increase both the number of trees and the canopy cover. These trees will be planted as semi-mature trees to assist their integration into the landscape, and have been carefully selected to deal with the effects of climate change.
Thank-you for your time.
Director of Quin & Co