Discussions were not formally completed and approved prior to the works being undertaken
Sub-optimal context ahead of the tree works taking place
Dialogue fell short of the Council formally giving the final approval for the works on Council land
Discrepancies between the Arboricultural Method Statement and what occurred on site
After five days of stonewalling, Cardiff Council have finally admitted that the The Rise (Cardiff) Ltd’s actions were in conflict with planning conditions. Cardiff Civic Society received an email from Cardiff’s head of planning, James Clemence, which reads as follows. It has been anotated with comments in square brackets by the Civic Society in order to provide the full context.
“Yes, the Aboricultural Method Statement (AMS, revision 21/6/2018) formed part of the information set out in conditions to the consented scheme. [The Council had previousy refused to answer questions about the AMS and at one stage the document was removed from their website].
“Yes, the Tree Contractors undertaking the works were an arboricultural company called TR33 and not the Council. [The AMS stated that the Council should undertake the work, not the developer]. However, please be aware that following the issuing of consent, there has been dialogue between the Site Contractors and council regarding the details of implementing the approved tree works as part of the scheme. As you are aware, due to the land ownership boundary details, there was a need for this dialogue to take place. During this dialogue, the Site Contractors changed and regrettably, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, site visits were not possible to precisely clarify matters. These circumstances created a sub-optimal context ahead of the tree works taking place. Whilst dialogue was taking place remotely regarding details which would have been addressed in a Method Statement (as stated in the AMS), this dialogue fell short of the Council formally giving the final approval for the works on Council land and formally updating supporting information with regard to the AMS/MS details. As you reference at the start of today’s email, this explains the discrepancies between the AMS and what occurred on site. In this respect, Officers are therefore continuing to investigate the precise details of the recent removal operations and communications between the numerous parties involved before considering our potential response. However, as clarified earlier, no trees shown for retention on the submitted plans have been removed and we are dealing with technical/process discrepancies between previously approved and evolving/implemented method statements and site operations.
“With regard to bird nesting concerns, this issue is not covered by a Planning Condition but would be a matter for the consideration of the Police and Natural Resources Wales who would need to investigate if there had been a breach of Wildlife legislation. In this respect, I would concur with the advice which you have sought from the RSPB. In response, Officers have sought further information from the Site Contractor regarding evidence that was sought to establish the presence or otherwise of bird nests ahead of the works given that the works were undertaken at this time. We are still awaiting full clarification but at this juncture initial feedback received Thursday evening has stated that TR33 thoroughly checked/climbed the trees before felling. We have also been informed that TR33 are a very reputable professional tree specialist company in South Wales who are approved by the Arboricultural Association, they have stringent yearly checks in relation to ecology/tree diseases H&S etc. and work with various local authorities, including our own Parks department, throughout South Wales and also with NRW in the works they carry out. They complete numerous project throughout the nesting season and where birds are found nesting or any other ecology habitat is encountered the tree works are suspended until a suitable time to remove when birds have fledged, they would not cut down a tree with nesting birds. Furthermore, we have been sent TR33’s Wildlife and Ecology Policy and received confirmation that had the company found nesting birds or evidence of any other protected species, they would not have continued. We have been notified that TR33 currently have 6 jobs on hold for various customers where the company have successfully located nesting birds and stopped work. TR33 are Arboricultural Association Approved Contractors which requires stringent annual inspections of work, quality, and procedures. The company have stated that they would be happy to directly answer any questions regarding this site and the work carried out to any interested parties. Given I only received this information on Thursday evening, I have requested that Officers establish further details but given your clear concerns, I wished to bring this information to your attention at this juncture. With regards to bats, a Bat Licence was sought and granted from NRW.
“It is our understanding that construction works have not been undertaken from the Parks side and it is noted that ‘heras-type fencing’ separates the construction portion of the site from the boundary trees and vegetation. [The AMS stated that works should only take place from the site side. There is photographic and eyewitness evidence that the works were undertaken from the Parks side] The ongoing dialogue between officers and site contractor were addressing site access issues but as stated in point 2, above, these discussions were not formally completed and approved prior to the works being undertaken.
The dialogue between officers and site contractor were working towards the agreement of a Method Statement but the works were implemented before there was formal completion and approval of the arrangements.