Since the illegal tree fellings at Seymour Drive came to our attention earlier this year, the South Hams Society has provided support to the very successful local residents group as they have opposed the development of the former woodland they used to enjoy.
Those who viewed the area from adjacent properties will never forget the sight of a bare hilltop where a swathe of woodland had been illegally felled. To support the local community, we submitted letters of Objection to the Planning Applications which followed; we also sent details of the fellings to the UK’s Tree Council.
The Society and its members remain committed to supporting the residents group, and to highlighting the fact that hundreds of trees were illegally felled to facilitate a planning application (for housing). Unfortunately such instances are not rare in the South Hams, where land prices are high and unscrupulous developers and their agents can make easy money by ignoring or abusing the planning system.
We believe it is wrong to describe an illegally felled wood as an ‘unused’ or ‘brownfield’ site or to commission a post-felling Ecology report which blandly notes ‘no trees’ present. What matters to this particular type of developer is getting their planning application approved and making as much money as possible. They appear to have no conscience about the damage they cause to nature, and this at a time when the critical value of trees to our health and well-being is finally being recognised ..
Following the woodland clearance at the end of 2018/early 2019, the site owner has submitted a series of Planning Applications to South Hams District Council:
First planning application: In March 2019, an Application ref: ref: 0852/19/FUL to build nine houses was submitted. Dozens of local residents wrote letters of objection to SHDC.
Second planning application: On 15th August Application ref. 2853/19/FUL was submitted, also for nine houses.
Third planning application: Application Ref: 2844/19/OPA Submitted on 5th September, for five houses with parking. The SHDC’s Tree Officer made particular reference to “the pre-application removal of trees …. Recommendation – Refusal on Arboricultural merit”.
Fourth Planning Application Ref: 2871/19/FUL Submitted on 13th September, for an Amenity play area. The Planning Officer report also referred to the pre-application felling of trees. “This clearance resulted in the loss of woodland and the application has not demonstrated benefits to outweigh the harm”.
The South Hams Society welcomes the four Refusal decisions made by the Local Planning Authority and, in particular, the clear reference made by its officers to the abhorrent practice of pre-application tree felling which took place at Seymour Drive.
The landowner has previously announced that if he is unsuccessful with his Planning Applications, he intends to submit a series of Planning Appeals. The South Hams Society will continue to support the residents of Seymour Drive in opposing any Appeals.
We, and the local community, strongly feel that developers must be held accountable for such acts of wanton woodland destruction. We also hope that the prosecution currently under consideration by DEFRA will go ahead.
Last but not least, we wait to hear how soon the precious woodland will be restored.