Angry residents fight to save oak tree amid plans for more homes

An oak tree is standing in the way of plans for a development of 14 homes on open land at Tamerton Foliot on the northern edge of Plymouth.

The mature tree is at the proposed new access to the plot at the end of Cheshire Drive.

And the need to protect the tree from construction work has led to the planning application running into problems.

The developer says the scheme for the land at Cann Lodge would create 14 “high quality” homes with public green space.

A statement on behalf of the applicant says it would respect “the existing heritage, surrounding Conservation Area, woodlands and mature trees.”

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But a report from the city council’s highways authority recommends the planning application is refused, partly because of concerns about the impact on the tree of a new access road.

The proposed road would be over the roots so the developer is proposing a “no-dig” construction method.

But the highways report said that could have an impact on the tree, and could make it difficult to connect services from Cheshire Drive to the site such as sewers, electricity and gas, although alternatives might be possible.

The report said the details in the application “leave a high level of doubt” over the possibility of harm to the tree which could not be resolved by a planning condition.

It also raised concerns about whether “satisfactory and safe access” could be provided to the nearest bus stops in Tamerton Foliot Road, because the plans showed a route over private land.

What the new homes at Cann Lodge could look like
What the new homes at Cann Lodge could look like (Image: pad Design Ltd)

A tree report submitted with the planning application said the proposed construction method for the access road could be covered by a planning condition, based on the findings of a root survey.

The outline application is being handled by property consultants Savills, on behalf of the PD Tuckett Will Trust. It is for 14 detached homes, with all the details to be decided later except for the access.

The 1.63hectare (4.02acre) site described as semi-agricultural land is south-east of the village centre in the Tamerton Foliot Conservation Area, and has views through trees towards the tower of the listed St Mary’s parish church.

The plot is currently private land with no public access but is part of the Cann Wood Local Nature Reserve Neighbourhood Green Space.

Objectors say that the green space should be protected from development and more homes would put too much pressure on local services including schools and the village GP surgery.

They also argue that the proposed access route from Cheshire Drive is too narrow to cope with extra traffic during construction and from the development, and raise concerns about an increased risk of flooding.

Oak tree at the proposed access to a housing site at the end of Cheshire Drive in Tamerton Foliot
Oak tree at the proposed access to a housing site at the end of Cheshire Drive in Tamerton Foliot (Image: Google)

The developer says the views and ecological benefit of the green space would not be harmed by the development, and many of the mature trees on the site would be kept. It says the site has good transport links in an established residential area with good access to the village, shops, schools, jobs and leisure.

A proposed estate with 38 homes was revised after public consultation in 2019 with a lower-density development which is described as a “softer, more landscape-led proposal”.

A design and access statement by consultants Pad Design Ltd, submitted with the planning application, said: “The site is currently in semi-agricultural use. Despite being designated as a Neighbourhood Green Space and being crossed by several informal paths, there is currently no designated public access to the site.

“Its development would open up access to the site, providing new accessible open space and improving foot links to Cann Wood and local bus stops.

“The proposals would safeguard the privacy and amenity of surrounding properties and represent sustainable development in social, economic and environmental terms.

“The development would provide a mix of much needed new housing, and a parameter plan sets a framework for future detailed design.”

Masterplan of the proposed site for new homes at Tamerton Foliot
Masterplan of the proposed site for new homes at Tamerton Foliot (Image: Pad Design Ltd)

The consultation response from the city council highways authority said the expected traffic from the homes would be relatively low and acceptable. But it said the application should be refused because it failed to show how access could be achieved to a safe and satisfactory planning standard for vehicles and pedestrians at the access from Cheshire Drive and to the bus stops on Tamerton Foliot Road.

Mark Deacon, Conservative city councillor for Southway, submitted one of the 26 objections to the scheme from members of the public during the consultation stage.

He said the 14 extra homes would put too much pressure on the “already poor infrastructure and amenities in the area”, arguing there were not enough places in schools or GP surgeries.

He said construction traffic and extra vehicles would make narrow Cheshire Drive “impassable” and lorries using the pavement to get past would cause damage and be a danger to pedestrians.

Cllr Deacon warned building on the open land would increase the risk of flooding in the area and said the plan conflicted with council policies to promote biodiversity.

An objection from the Tamerton Foliot Village Conservation Society said the scheme in a neighbourhood green space and conservation area went against local planning policies to protect the land.

It said: “The Conservation Area was designated to preserve the separation and identity of Tamerton Foliot as a village within the City and this has been recognised by the general protections in the JLP (Joint Local Plan). Who would not wish to signpost and protect this legacy and this remarkable view over neglected parkland to Cann House and St Mary’s Church?”

Janet Clarke commented: “There are few greenfield sites remaining in the area and this field is in a conservation area next to woodland with all sorts of habitat. Any development will impact this.”

Margaret Nicholson wrote that wildlife seen in the Andy Stevens Nature Reserve included deer, foxes, buzzards, herons, egrets and woodpeckers. She said the environment would be lost if the scheme went ahead, and approval would “make a mockery” of the protection for the green space in the Joint Local Plan.

She wrote: “If this application is granted the village of Tamerton Foliot will have been swallowed up by housing development.”

Martin Palmer said the road was struggling to cope with the current use, and argued there were other more suitable sites. He said: “At a time when we all seem to be more aware of the benefit of nature and our obligation to maintaining it, I find it incredible that we are even discussing a proposal to permanently destroy an oasis of natural British land, particularly because it is patently unsuitable.”

The planning application is due to be decided by Tuesday, August 25.

Plymouth Live