Matt Discombe, Local Democracy Reporter, South Wales Echo
This article was published in the South Wales Echo and Wales Online on 18 Feb 2019 (see link above). Please support your local newspaper! They are the bedrock of democracy.
Plans to redevelop a listed building in Cardiff have been put on hold after concerns were raised about trees.
The three-storey Suffolk House in Canton, which was sold by the council in 2017, was set to be turned into 17 new homes – including seven new townhouses and 10 apartments in the main building.
Plans to redevelop the site include the demolition of Suffolk House’s modern extensions and the felling of some mature trees on the site – with smaller trees replacing them.
But Cardiff council’s Planning Committee deferred the plans on Wednesday February 13 after concerns that mature trees would be felled in place of the development which would be in a conservation area.
One councillor said the plans would give the impression the council is “willing to sell off our city on the cheap” after the developer’s contributions to community infrastructure was reduced from more than £330,957 to £49,095.
Other concerns included the height of the proposed buildings and the number of parking spaces planned – 18 had been planned for the 17 homes.
Council officers had recommended that the committee approved the application but it will now be heard again in March.
Councillor Ramesh Patel, objecting to the development, said: “I see this development as overbearing because this development will be three storeys high – they may be the same height as the properties on Romilly Road but completely overbearing on the properties on Greenfield Avenue which are two storeys high.
“This development will also have a major impact on the already difficult parking problems we have in the area, the visitors to this new development will only add extra pressure to the very limited spaces that are available in the area.
“These recommendations will indicate to all future developers that we are willing to sell off our city on the cheap because by reducing the section 106 agreements to this ridiculously low figure from £330,957 to £49,095 is something I’ve never come across in my 18 years as a councillor.”
A petition signed by 389 people opposed the plans.
Petitioner Miranda Dettwyler told the meeting: “Many homes own two cars. Even if everyone who lives there only has one car that only leaves one space for visitors.
“People feel very strongly that we need to hold onto these trees as strongly as possible.
“If you cut down those trees and replace them with saplings there’s a high chance the air will become quite polluted there.”
Planning officers told the committee that the contributions were reduced as the number of townhouses had been dropped from eight in the original plans, and following a viability assessment on the development.
Councillors were told the number of parking spaces were in line with the council’s supplementary planning guidance.
And Ed Baker, Cardiff council tree officer, told the committee that the development would have meant a good range of ages of trees on the site. He said the new trees would have been of established size.
John Pinn, for applicant Quin & Co Ltd, told the committee he has worked with council officers to design a “high quality, sensitive development” and the replacement trees would not be saplings.
He said: “The trees are being removed because it’s absolutely necessary. They are too large for the site. We’re retaining trees where possible on Romilly Road.”
But councillor Mike Jones-Pritchard, who moved a deferral which was passed four votes to three by the committee, said: “Those trees along that road have a massive impact on that area.”
Councillor Lyn Hudson said: “It’s a shame to get rid of the trees. They preserve the character of the area and add to the air quality.
“At the moment the air quality is not a problem because of the trees. It does form a barrier.
“The smaller trees that are envisaged wouldn’t preserve the character and wouldn’t add very much to improving the air quality.”