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CONTROVERSIAL APARTMENTS: Tree felling fears fuel backlash

CONTROVERSIAL APARTMENTS: Tree felling fears fuel backlash

Image: LDRS

Campaigners fighting a controversial apartments scheme in the heart of Solihull have been further angered over plans to fell mature trees on-site.

Residents were dismayed to discover the developers want to remove a wedge of greenery at The Rectory, very near to St Alphege Church.

Plans to build the 54 retirement flats have already come under fire amid fears the block – previously compared to something made from Lego – will ruin the look of a historic conservation area.

And now there is fresh anxiety after a separate application was submitted to fell five mature trees and shrubbery on the parcel of land.

Developers argue this is necessary to provide access for the ground investigations which form part of the proposed housing project and have pledged to provide replacement vegetation.

But neighbours claim that this will be little compensation for some of the largest trees in the immediate area.

Janet Doyle, among the objectors living nearby, said clearance work would “dramatically change the appearance of the gardens”.

“They haven’t even got planning permission for the full project and they are asking for approval to remove the trees,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

“They are a focal point of the whole gardens … they must have been there a long time to grow that big.

“We live near the town centre and we get lots of fumes and they protect us from it all and remove some of that.”

It’s understood more than 60 objections have been submitted after the apartments scheme had first been unveiled in the spring.

If granted approval it would involve the demolition of part of the old rectory building, in Church Hill Road, and the conversion of the existing wings. A new-build block would be located to the south.

Ms Doyle said residents had made their concerns clear but there was nonetheless worry that planning permission was being treated as a “done deal”.

Mark Tinson, development manager for Lifestory, the developers, said: “As part of the planning process ground investigation works need to take place and an application has been submitted to enable this to happen.

“As the site is in a conservation area, permission is required to remove any trees within the area and discussions have taken place with the local authority about this proposal.  The ground works and access required to undertake the works need to take place in very specific locations.

“The five trees proposed to be removed are predominantly lawson cypress trees as well as one young stage Kanzan cherry tree and one mature laurel shrub.  Six trees would be planted in the southern boundary of the site all of which will be evergreen.

“Planting evergreen trees to the boundary was specifically requested by neighbours during the planning application discussions with them.”

No firm date has yet been set for a decision on the main apartments scheme, although residents received an update from St Alphege ward councillor Joe Tildesley last month.

The next planning committee is scheduled for Wednesday, August 11, with an agenda set to be released tomorrow.

Although the process is currently taking longer than usual, which Solihull Council has attributed to the “high volume of applications received and limited resources.”

The backlog means that it may take up to 12 weeks for a decision to be reached, whereas normally it will be made in eight.


Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter

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