‘Too little, too late’ for warehouse tree preservation order say Milton Keynes residents

Residents living near a huge controversial warehouse have slammed as “too little, too late” a move to confirm a tree preservation order at the site.

Tuesday, 15th October 2019, 5:44 pm
The Blakelands warehouse

A committee at Milton Keynes Council is next Thursday (Oct 24) being recommended to approve a preservation order for trees near the controversial Blakelands Warehouse.

But the Blakelands Residents Association says the move “seems like too little, too late,” after trees were chopped down on the site in Yeoman Drive as early as August last year.

“Could they have not done this when they knew the trees – which were supposed to have been protected – were being chopped down in August 2018?”

One year after the council’s own senior landscaping architect recommended to the Development Control Committee that “satisfactory tree protection measures” should be taken as a “matter of urgency”, the issue is now on the agenda at the Development Control Panel.

Council officers are asking councillors to confirm a temporary tree preservation order (TPO) which was served on June 5 this year to protect woodland close to Bessemer Court, and woodland to the north of the 18m-high warehouse.

A spokesperson for Milton Keynes Council confirmed that the TPO was raised temporarily, as all of them are, in June 2019. There was then a consultation period, during which an objection was raised, but they feel its has “been addressed.”

But a Blakelands Residents Association spokesperson said: “The damage is done – they ignored the senior landscaping architect’s request for emergency measures as they ignored her objections on visual impact to the approval of the warehouse.”

TPOs would normally be the subject of behind the scenes decisions, but councillors have been keen to keep matters concerning the warehouse in the public eye. An independent report is separately being carried out into the decision-making process behind the decision to approve the doubling of height of the distribution building.

In his report to next Thursday’s meeting, council planning officer Luke Gledhill said the TPO would enable the council to “ensure that this woodland is not thinned out or felled.

“Felling or significantly thinning the woodland would be detrimental to the character of the local area as the woodland provides a high amount of amenity value.”

Anyone proposing to carry out works on protected trees have to apply to the council first.

Papers presented to the council’s planning department as a part of the warehouse decision making process included a Tree Survey and Arboricultural Impact Assessment. It identified a total of 89 individual trees and three groups of trees in the area but said the majority of them were of “low quality and value”.

Usually, so called Category C trees would not be retained where they would impose a significant constraint to development, the report said. It added: “The (then) proposed development would result in the loss of two individual Category B Trees (moderate quality and value) and 72 Category C trees.

“Whilst the loss of these trees is regrettable, the benefits of the proposed development must be weighed against any harm caused to the loss of soft landscaping and its impacts on the character of the area.”

“Officers acknowledge that the proposal would result in the loss of considerable number of trees, however that the important buffer to the north and north east is being improved or retained.”

Tree protection was included as one of the conditions for the warehouse being rebuilt.