Matt Discombe, Local Democracy Reporter, South Wales Echo
This article was published in the South Wales Echo and Wales Online on 22 March 2019 (see link above). It highlights the importance of local journalism in holding powerful councillors to account. Please buy and read the Echo and Western Mail everyday!
Redevelopment plans for a listed building in Cardiff have been passed despite concerns over the loss of mature trees.
Suffolk House in Canton will be turned into 17 new homes – including seven townhouses and 10 apartments in the main building.
Plans for the three-storey building, which was sold by Cardiff Council in 2017, involve the demolition of Suffolk House’s modern extensions and the felling of some mature trees on the site – with smaller trees replacing them.
Concerns were raised about the felling of the healthy trees, which is in a conservation area, at a meeting of Cardiff Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, March 20.
In February, the plans were put on hold due to concerns raised about the loss of trees and impact on the conservation area.
Concerns were also raised about the height of the proposed buildings and the level of developer’s contributions to community infrastructure being reduced from more than £330,957 to £49,095.
But the committee narrowly voted to approve the plans, which also involve the replacement of a damaged wall.
Ed Baker, Cardiff Council tree officer, told the committee three of the trees on the site due to be felled – a copper beech and two lime trees – were directly impacting on the wall.
He said 12 younger trees were proposed on the site in their place, which would make the trees on the site more diverse and “they should be able to make a good long-term contribution to the character of the conservation area”.
But Councillor Mike Jones-Pritchard, who voted against the plans, said: “Those trees in that location, and the impact they have, I feel are irreplaceable.”
Councillor Sean Driscoll, who also voted against the plan, said: “It’s not the trees that are the problem, it’s the wall. I’m sure we can find an engineering solution to address that.”
Mr Baker said any work to the wall could impact on the trees.
Suffolk House is currently in a poor condition and squatters have been living there, councillors heard.
Councillor Iona Gordon said: “I see this beautiful house falling into complete disrepair. It’s dreadful. The windows are broken in, there are people squatting in there.”
Four councillors voted to refuse the plans, while four voted against the refusal while another abstained. The motion to reject the plans was defeated after the committee’s chairman, Councillor Keith Jones, cast the deciding vote.
In a follow-up vote, the committee voted six to three in favour of granting the application.