Exclusive: CPS Homes’ tree felling contractors breached health and safety law at Suffolk House

One year on and Cllr Caro Wild still refuses to strengthen tree protections.

Working in the dark, without proper lighting, CPS Homes’ contractors attach a rope to tear down a 150 year old copper beech. Acorn tree services were subsequently issued with a notification of contravention by the Health and Safety Executive

A year ago today, CPS Homes felled three mature trees with conservation area status at Suffolk House in Canton, with the permission of Cardiff Council.  

CPS Homes’ actions not only broke conservation area rules, but their contractors also fell foul of health and safety law.

In May 2020, following a complaint from a member of the public, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed that they had taken action against CPS Homes’ tree felling contractors, Acorn tree services of Dinas Powys.  They investigated CPS Homes’ contractors’ actions and found that material breaches of health and safety law took place.  HSE subsequently took the serious step of issuing a ‘notification of contravention’ letter to CPS Homes’ contractors and obliging them to take action.  

The letter of complaint from a member of the public to the Health and Safety Executive detailed their frightening approach to felling the tree as follows: 

“The sun went down at 18.15 on 8 March and it started to get dark quickly.  The contractors attached a section of cable to the top of a tree to a cable which was held somewhere at the back of the site.

“They started to work on the tree at its base.  I could hear them shouting amongst themselves for certain tools.  It didn’t appear they were properly prepared for this kind of work.  

“At this point, it was dark.  Acorn workers did not have adequate lighting.  They were relying on torches and car lights.  

“Then they stopped chopping and without any safety warning, the tree was felled.  Had it fallen in the other direction, on to the public road, with members of the public stood directly opposite as they were, it could have killed them.”

May 2020 also saw CPS Homes exposed on Channel 4’s Joy Lycett’s Got Your Back for their unfair treatment of student tenants in Cardiff.  This led to Cardiff Council issuing an action needed warning to CPS Homes and an investigation by Trading Standards.  

The Suffolk House scandal shone a spotlight on failings in Cardiff council’s tree protection policy and how companies with poor reputations take advantage of these.  Despite promising to consider the introduction of stronger supplemental planning guidance to protect mature trees in future, Cllr Caro Wild, the cabinet member for planning still refuses to intervene.  Despite the fact his planning guidance failed to protect trees in a conservation area he claims his current rules to protect trees are “robust.”  

Cllr Caro Wild represents the ward of Riverside, which includes Pontcanna, which borders the Suffolk House site and includes the larger part of the Conway Road conservation area.  

A local resident said:  “I am very disappointed that our local representative Cllr Caro Wild, should side with companies with poor record of compliance with rules over local residents who simply want to retain the trees and much loved buildings of the area.  If Mr Wild is serious about his self-appointed status as a ‘Green’ he should take action now to protect other trees in Pontcanna from meeting the fate of those at Suffolk House, The Rise and The Vicarage.”

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