Tag Archives: Trees

Stop the chop – turning the tide on tree loss

Cricket Green is lucky to have such a wonderful abundance of trees.

We all benefit from their beauty, the wildlife they support and how they tell the story of the passing seasons.

They offer shade in a warming climate, trap air pollution and reduce flooding.

They are part of our heritage and vital to our future. It should be of no surprise therefore that when trees are threatened people cry out.

The ribbons round threatened trees at Mitcham Bridge and the signs warning of their imminent loss are the latest in a long line of public displays of the love for Mitcham’s trees. They need to be the last.

The public outcry at Mitcham Bridge (see photo) has prompted us to ask about the scale of what is being lost.

The results are a worrying reminder of just how easy it is to lose something so important to our neighbourhood. Our research into recent planning applications within just 800m of Mitcham cricket ground shows 138 trees are for the chop.

Many have already gone. All but eight are down to developments for which Merton Council is itself responsible. Here’s the breakdown and take a look at the map:

Mitcham Bridge – 22
Melrose School expansion – 7
Flats in Preshaw Crescent garden – 8
Flats and houses in former Canons nursery – 44
The Canons project – 38
Flats in Raleigh Gardens car park – 19

Total tree loss = 138

We would be interested to know what’s happening in other parts of Merton – email us with your thoughts.

There are plans for new trees within many of these developments. Unfortunately experience shows that too often the new trees never materialise or die within a few years and no enforcement action is taken.

We also see young saplings planted as false compensation for the loss of mature trees and we see a lack of attention to the importance of protecting the tree canopy as well as individual trees.

It is very welcome that Merton Council’s commitment to producing a Tree Strategy looks to be moving forward. Merton is also about to consult on the new Local Plan and to say what it intends to do to address the Climate Emergency. We’ve drawn up a Ten Point Plan for Trees to help. It covers land and trees in Merton Council’s responsibility as well as those for which other landowners and developers are responsible. We would welcome your ideas and proposal to care for our trees.

Our Ten Point Plan for Trees

1. Replace all lost street trees within two years and invite local communities to nominate new street trees every year.

2. Increase tree canopy by 10% by 2030 – faster than the London average – supported by revenue funding for maintenance and capital investment in new planting.

3. Audit the condition and distribution of existing trees as the basis for establishing management priorities and providing guidance on the best locations for future tree planting, including succession planting in areas of high amenity value and measures to reduce the impact of underground services, road signs, dropped kerbs (crossovers) and other Highways impacts.

4. Anticipate future climate change and maximise the benefits for wildlife, pollution control and shade in the choice of tree species.

5. Strengthen Local Plan policy to require a net increase in tree canopy and the overall value of trees where development proposals require their loss, including requiring the planting of semi-mature replacement trees and accounting for lost tree years when replacing mature trees with saplings.

6. Strengthen Local Plan policy to extend requirements for the evaluation of individual trees in development proposals to include assessments of the value of the tree canopy and its amenity and ecosystem benefit, including a financial assessment of the value of any trees to be lost in accordance with i-Tree Eco UK and CAVAT.

7. Introduce and rigorously enforce planning conditions requiring all new trees provided by new development to be maintained or replaced for a minimum of five years from completion.

8. Address the importance of existing and future trees and the tree canopy in character studies, design codes, masterplans and Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plans.

9. Provide the infrastructure and management systems needed to support effective tree maintenance and watering across the borough, including by: providing taps and mobile bowsers for use by local volunteers; changing the mowing regime for parks, green spaces and road verges to avoid tree damage; and requiring contractors idverde undertake planting, watering and maintenance of new trees in parks and green spaces in collaboration with Friends and like-minded groups.

10. Prepare and adopt a Supplementary Planning Document on trees and increasing the tree canopy.

The Tree Strategy should be independently prepared and involve all relevant parts of Merton Council, including planning, parks, green spaces, highways, schools, heritage and public health. It should be based on strong community collaboration co-ordinated by Tree Wardens Group Merton.

It’s time to stop the chop and turn the tide on tree loss.

Melrose School expansion will result in unnecessary tree felling

Melrose School makes an important educational and community contribution to the area.

It is strategically located in wooded grounds between Church Road and London Road Playing Fields.

Merton Council decided in August to expand the school and provide for children of primary school age.

We have reviewed the development plans for new classrooms, a hall, new car park and other changes. These have a direct impact on that part of the school grounds which is in Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area and our fundamental concern is that a significant proportion of the remaining open space on the site is to be developed.

This will result in felling significant trees without any details as to how they will be replaced. Given the development is put forward by Merton Council and it will result in trees being felled that are the responsibility of Merton Council we are particularly concerned that no assessment of its heritage impact has been provided despite this being a requirement for developments in the Conservation Area.

Merton Council’s Design Review Panel only gave the plans an AMBER rating.

It recommended a two-storey option was considered “in order to maintain more open space and improve the general site layout. This also may take pressure off tree loss.” We agree. It is also perverse that despite this loss of trees the school is planning to include a new “Woodland teaching area”. It is a contradiction in terms to create a woodland teaching area on a site where the quality and number of trees is being reduced by a local authority which has declared a Climate Emergency.

We recognise the need to expand the school. We believe it can be achieved in a less damaging way with a better design that avoids extensive tree felling and causes less harm to the Conservation Area.

You can read our full submission Melrose School development

Tree felling shock reverberates down the years

This is a sad tale of lost trees and bureaucratic inaction played out in a Cricket Green garden behind Preshaw Crescent.

Back in 2015 a large number of mature trees were felled and a large garden cleared in anticipation of development plans for a block of flats being submitted.

All mature trees in the Conservation Area are automatically protected and Merton Council needs to permit their felling.

No permission was given for an act that the landowner later described as an “embarrassment”. The photo shows before and after images and the garden has now been cleared by a digger to bare earth.

We joined with local residents in asking Merton Council to take action against this blatant breach of planning safeguards.

The response was to deal with the issue as part of the decision on the planning applications subsequently submitted to develop the garden site. Merton’s Tree Officer emailed in December 2016 that “I have written to the owner about this matter, and he is now aware that the council expects new replacement trees to be planted.”

In the event two planning applications were submitted. These included the statement that “This occurrence is an embarrassment to the applicant and all involved with developing the proposals for this development and something that we all wish to put right as part of the development process.

One application was never progressed and the other was turned down in late 2019 after two years of consideration.

Imagine the dismay, therefore, when we asked Merton’s Tree Officer what action was being taken to put right the wrong done to the trees in 2015 and were told that “the power to enforce tree replacement is time limited to 4 years, and as this time has now expired no further action in the form of enforcement can be taken.”

We have asked our ward councillors to look into the issue. There is every impression of officers asleep on the job and allowing the wilful loss of mature trees just as Merton Council announces a climate and ecological emergency. A simple calendar reminder to take action if the situation had not been resolved would have served to ensure the enforcement deadline was not missed.

There is one potential silver lining. A new application has been submitted for the site. While the proposed flats are too large and develop too much of the site it does provide an opportunity for the owner to put right the wrong and for Merton Council to insist on trees being provided equivalent to those that were lost.

We ask you to join us in watching what happens next.

Read our full representations on the latest development for the garden of 8 Preshaw Crescent Land behind Preshaw Crescent – January 2020

The Canons claims Merton’s favourite tree

The wonderful Pagoda tree on the former nursery at The Canons has been named as Merton’s favourite tree for 2019.

Merton Tree Wardens report it was the runaway winner.

The tree is an extroadinary specimen and part of the large collection of mature trees across The Canons grounds. This arboretum is the result of careful selection and planting in the grounds over many years.

The nursery site is now the focus of attention for a significant housing development by Merton Council’s own development company Merantun Development.

A planning application for houses and flats is imminent despite strong criticism from Merton’s Design Review Panel last week which gave the plans an amber rating using their ‘traffic lights’ system for grading applications.

The Pagoda tree features in the new development.

At our recent Open Meeting, Merantun’s architects claimed the tree is safe despite the amount of development proposed to surround it.

Some have questioned whether the tree that appears in the architects drawings is the same – what do you think?

We will be looking carefully at the new plans and doing our best to protect this wonderful tree for the future.