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8 November 2011

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We wish to extend our surgery but have listed trees behind our existing building. Is there anything we can do?

Question in full:

We wish to extend our medical centre but have three listed trees behind our existing building. Is there anything we can do to enable us to be able to develop on the affected land?

Answer in full:

This is a regular problem we encounter and I have taken the views of our in-house planning team for their opinion. Clearly, the potential to develop depends on the type and nature of the trees and also their proximity to the existing building and where you might be proposing to develop. The general rule is that if a tree is subject to a Tree Preservation Order, then it is regarded by the local authority as an important tree to retain. Accordingly, the prospects of securing agreement to its removal will be limited, although each case needs to be considered on its merits.

On the assumption that the trees are very close to the existing building and the only way of extending would be through their removal, then the outcome may not be favourable to you. If, however, they are some distance away, creative design solutions could allow extensions to your building to be possible, perhaps also through realignment of existing landscaping and parking to maximise land take for construction.

Your first step would be to consult with a planning adviser who can research the Tree Preservation Orders to determine if these are recent or historic and can investigate the reasons for the listing in the first place. Depending on the outcome of this, an arboriculturalist can be employed to carry out a tree survey and to provide an expert opinion as to whether the trees could be considered dangerous, diseased or perhaps no longer worthy of retention. The Council, in the event of dispute, may well call their own expert to challenge the findings.

A further argument would be to seek to prove that the need to extend the surgery, perhaps to meet increased local patient demand or to modernise the building to preserve the service, outweighs the need for retaining the trees. Again, this is difficult to prove and is somewhat subjective, but the Council may be amenable if they have identified a need to preserve community and medical services in the area, for example.

If the trees have to be retained, there could be no construction over the identified root protection area, which, depending on the tree, can be considerable. You will, however, be permitted to place a porous hard standing underneath the canopy, for example to accommodate parking, which may free up parking spaces next to the building to enable some development away from the trees.