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Bridgend Politics South Wales

Residents in Newton fear impact of development on protected trees

The New Housing Site On Former St Johns School, Newton

RESIDENTS and councillors in Bridgend County Borough have vented their frustrations at a local planning committee this week, after developer Taylor-Wimpey was said to have caused ‘significant damage’ to protected trees on a former school site in Newton, Porthcawl.

The development of fifty-seven residential units on the site of the former St John’s School, which is located within the historical village of Newton, is expected to be completed by the end of the year after planning approval was granted in 2021.

However, even though the developer was expected to retain a number of protected trees on the site as part of the proposal, residents and councillors claimed many had been badly damaged over the course of the construction period.

It is now feared by locals that the loss of the trees could have an impact on local wildlife, as well as increasing the risk of flood problems at the site.

Council bosses came together to discuss a renewed proposal from the company for a revised tree retention plan, which includes replanting trees and altered landscaping.

While it was noted that a number of the trees were planned to be removed as part of the project, others that were protected were cited as having mechanical damage after safeguarding measures were not followed, resulting in the removal of a Poplar and a Sycamore.

The report read: “The application has been submitted as a result of an enforcement investigation regarding the removal of a number of trees on the site and seeks to agree an updated package of drawings to reflect the current position with regard to tree retention, tree works and tree loss. A revised landscaping scheme has also been submitted proposing new areas of tree planting where trees have been removed.”

The appraisal in the report added: “As development progressed, it became apparent that the applicant company were not following all the safeguarding measures in terms of development within the root protection zones of the retained trees. This was observed by residents and reported to the council. In a number of locations, the poor working practices of the development company had impacted the trees and the council requested that a revised tree survey be carried out.”

Cllr Jonathan Pratt of Newton said: “As the local member this has been in my inbox since May, and living directly in the area I do want to discuss the level of anger this has caused from my residents.”

Other councillors at the meeting also questioned whether or not further enforcement could be looked at for the damage caused to the trees, before deciding on whether or not to retrospectively approve the new plans put forward by Taylor-Wimpey.

After a vote it was decided to defer discussions on the proposals for a further six weeks, while further analysis was done to discover the condition of the soil at the site, along with any additional landscaping that could take place.

A Taylor Wimpey spokesperson said: “We understand the concerns of local residents and would like to assure them that all work in relation to tree removal at the development has been in accordance with the approved permissions and following consultation with Bridgend County Borough Council. Where trees have been removed, we are replacing them at a greater ratio than 1:1.”