The South Hams Society is very pleased to hear that South Hams District Council has passed a motion to lobby central government for stronger sanctions against breaches of planning law, including unauthorised damage and felling of trees. This is a much-needed proposal that we hope will lead to change.
Meanwhile, we believe improvements can and must be made under the current system. The process for reporting planning breaches needs to be simple and better publicised and planning enforcement must be better resourced. If the SHDC can’t afford to prosecute wrongdoers through the courts then other ways must be found. In an era when our landscape and wildlife are under more pressure than ever before, we have to reverse the situation where unscrupulous landowners and developers gain and everyone else loses.
The unlawful tree felling at Seymour Drive, Dartmouth, and the illegal development at Gerston Point on the Kingsbridge estuary are just two examples in the public eye currently. In reality, trees are often being cut down to ‘clear the way’ for subsequent planning applications. As a Society, we monitor and report some of these cases, but have faced difficulties getting the SHDC to take action.
Our members look forward to a proper overhaul of planning enforcement in the South Hams so that the system works as it should. As well as easily accessible reporting mechanisms, we need effective case work and meaningful sanctions, including fines set at realistic levels, to deter law breakers. The South Hams Society, and the local community, is waiting to see how the authorities will deal with what has happened at Seymour Drive and Gerston Point. We want to see a clear message go out calling time on our area being exploited for personal gain’.
A man has been fined £112,197 for illegally felling ancient beech trees without a license. – See: SHS Trees