The developer planning 17 new homes on the old Canton Family Centre site says the trees have to go, writes Matt Discombe, South Wales Echo’s local democracy reporter
Campaigners are keeping up the fight to save some mature trees despite plans being approved to fell them as part of a housing development.
Signs have appeared on the healthy trees at the front of Suffolk House in Canton pleading with the developer to save them ahead of a redevelopment of the listed building.
But developer Quin and Co Ltd has said the trees would need to be felled regardless of any development due to the damage they are doing to a wall.
Planning permission was approved in March to turn the Suffolk House site, former home of the Canton Family Centre, into 17 new homes – including seven town houses and 10 apartments in the main building.
The plans include the felling of the mature trees at the front of the site – with saplings replacing them.
Campaigners say there is no need to fell the much-loved trees – and say they have years of life left in them.
But the developer says they need to be taken down for safety reasons.
The council’s tree officer Ed Baker told a Planning Committee in March that 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 the 12 younger trees proposed to replace them would make the area more diverse.
Campaigners told the committee cutting down the trees would increase pollution there and people feel strongly about keeping them.
In an open letter to residents John Pinn, director of Quin and Co, said: “The removal of the trees has not been to facilitate the construction of the houses and is only due to the failure of the retaining wall.
“The failure of the wall (is) evident from the pavement; and unfortunately the trees which are approaching the end of their life, have outgrown the site.
“Regardless of the design of the scheme, as owners of the site we have a legal duty of care and even without re-developing the site we would need to remove the trees to re-build the retaining wall.
“Rather than immediately felling the trees which could have been completed without planning permission we opted to engage in the planning process so that the extensive tree replacements could be secured by Cardiff council and that local residents could clearly see our desire to deliver a scheme befitting to the conservation area setting.”
The trees at Suffolk House were not subject of tree preservation orders but were within a conservation area – which meant the developer had to notify the council, and for the authority to approve, before undertaking any work.
Miranda Dettwyler, an architect who is part of the campaign to save the trees, has told Mr Pinn the campaign was “disappointed” by his open letter.
In her written response, she said: “We’ve made it clear that there are a number of qualified arbourists, structural engineers and architects in the neighbourhood who are more than willing to provide you free-of-charge the necessary information to repair or replace the wall without removing the trees.
“The local qualified arbourist has assessed the trees as having at least a half century left of life in them and your own tree report by Soltys Brewster lists them as having at least 20 years left.
“Our offer still stands, if you would allow the local professionals to meet with your own consultants, I am certain a way forward can be found. The local structural engineer has a number of proposals he is happy to discuss with you.
“If you are not willing to arrange such a meeting, then it shows how disingenuous your original offer of community engagement was.”
Mr Pinn told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I don’t think all the local residents have all the facts and understand the dangers the trees are presenting on this site.
“They need to be felled on safety grounds whether the development is going ahead, one house is built there or no houses are built there – it’s wholly unrelated to the development.
“We have tried to engage with local residents.”