Firgrove Green: Council tree officer did not inspect trees he condemned as unhealthy

open green space, rights of way and trees, two days before councillors rubber-stamped to destroy

open green space, trees and rights of way, two days before councillors rubber-stamped to destroy

At the planning meeting in June to decide the fate of Firgrove Parade (destruction of open green space, cutting down of trees, destruction of four local businesses) the planners blatantly lied. They lied about the state of the trees. To be exact, they repeatedly lied on several counts, but pivotal to the outcome, was the lies they told about the trees.

They claimed the trees were unhealthy, were at the end of their lives. They let the councillors believe they were discussing a tree report by their very own tree officer, although no tree report was before them, no tree report was included in the Agenda, even though the state of the trees was pivotal to the decision to be reached that night.

Councillors questioned the integrity of the tree officer, questioned why he was not standing before them to be cross-examined on the state of the trees. One even said, if they had a different report on the trees, they would be reaching a different decision that evening.

The councillors voted to destroy Firgrove Parade, voted to destroy four local businesses, cut down trees and destroy the only remaining green space in that part of Farnborough town centre.

They reached their decision based upon a pack of lies fed to them by planning officials who were determined to push through a development on behalf of Bride Hall. The same developer wishing to destroy The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

The tree report the councillors were discussing, and unbeknown to them as they did not have it before them, was a tree report from the developer Bride Hall.

As a Freedom of Information request has shown, there was no report from the tree officer, as the tree officer never produced one. Nor did the tree officer inspect the trees. The tree officer simply endorsed the tree report from the developer without troubling himself to actually get off his backside and check the state of the trees.

1.    Details of any tree inspection carried out by the Council and a copy of any inspection report prepared by the Council
 
No such inspection was carried out and there therefore is no such report.
 
2.    Confirmation that the Council saw Bride Hall’s tree report and any details of any endorsement or comments on it
 
I can confirm that the Council received and reviewed Bride Hall’s Arboricultural Report (a copy of which I attach).  As is the usual process, the Council’s Arboricultural Officer is consulted in respect of a planning application and their response is included in the report to the Development Control Committee. In this instance, the Council’s Arboricultural Officer reviewed this report responded to the consultation that they had no objection to the proposals.  This is stated in the Committee report (also attached – see page 27).  Beyond this, there are no other endorsements or comments on Bride Hall’s Arboricultural Report.
 
3.    Details of checks were made for nesting birds
 
The Council has no such details of checks that may have been made for nesting birds (nor would we expect to given that the responsibility for compliance with the relevant legislation lies with the owner of the land and/or the party carrying out works to the trees).
 
4.    Notes on any internal discussions on these trees and copies of e-mails
 
Having reviewed our files, the only information we can find regarding this issue is the Arboricultural Officer’s consultation response which was included in the relevant Committee report.
 
5.    Notes on any discussion, meeting, telephone call and e-mails between Bride Hall and the Council
 
Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act (“the Act”) makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit, which for local government is set at £450 (by the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulation 2004, “the Regulations”). This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 18 working hours in determining whether the Council holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information.  Given that Bride Hall own a number of sites in the Borough and have done so for many years and the extremely wide nature of your request, I believe that it would take substantially in excess of 18 hours to deal with your request. Therefore we will not be processing your request any further.

Local people delayed the cutting down of the trees, but all have now gone, bar one. Healthy trees were cut down in a crude attempt to hide the fact the planners lied to push through a planning application on behalf of Bride Hall. One tree remains. Its fate was decided by a nesting bird.

It is reasonable to expect expect all council officials to discharge their duties and responsibilities with due diligence. This would not appear to have been the case with the council tree officer.

The council tree officer endorsed the tree report from Bride Hall without he himself inspecting the trees. This to say the least beggars belief. Far from exercising due diligence, he has shown gross dereliction of duty, misconduct and maladministration.

How can the council tree officer possibly review and endorse the Bride Hall tree report without inspecting the trees it refers to? How does he even know the species of trees or their number is correct, let alone the health or amenity value of those trees?

It is difficult for the liars to keep their stories straight.
 
The tree officer is forbidden to discuss his non-existent tree report.

Sarita Jones, planning case officer, has claimed tree officer inspected the trees and produced a report. Would not have approved the Bride Hall report without checking the trees.

Jeremy Rosen, temporary borough solicitor, has said emergency Tree Preservation Orders could not be put on the trees as this would stop the development taking place.

Keith Holland, head of planning, said cutting down the trees had nothing to do with the development.

The trees that were cut down, were, contrary to the lies to the planning committee, healthy trees.

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3 Responses to “Firgrove Green: Council tree officer did not inspect trees he condemned as unhealthy”

  1. denise yes (@carol_denise22) Says:

    can we appeal or has anyone appealed against it

  2. keithpp Says:

    No, we cannot appeal. Had the developer not got their way, the developer could have appealed.

    Planning consent has not yet been issued. Once planning consent has been issued, it could be challenged by means of a Judicial Review, and there are more than sufficient grounds on which to challenge. But, until such time as planning consent is formally granted, there is nothing to challenge.

  3. keithpp Says:

    There is something going very very wrong with our planning system.

    Firgrove Green, the only green space this end of Farnborough town centre threatened with destruction for an unwanted, ugly, 80-bed Premier Inn hotel.

    On the other hand, Charlie’s house, a beautiful low impact house built with love, is threatened with destruction.

    https://keithpp.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/charlies-house-two-month-death-sentence-because-the-benefits-of-the-development-did-not-outweigh-the-harm-to-the-character-and-appearance-of-the-countryside/

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