Questions over decision to fell 36 Shoreham trees screening development site

A decision to allow a developer to cut down 36 trees in Shoreham has been questioned.

The Southern Housing Group received permission to redevelop The Mannings into 74 apartments in 2019.

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But St Mary’s ward councillor Jeremy Gardner raised concerns on Thursday (9 June) after a line of 36 trees started to come down.

Trees being felled on the Mannings site in Shoreham

He took to social media to share a picture of the tree felling.

“I took this picture today as one more went down,” said the post.

“These trees are great for carbon capture – and screening the flats beyond.

“I am asking council officers how this has happened.”

Artist's impression of the proposed development at the Mannings site in Shoreham

A report from the planning meeting in November 2019 – where permission was given for the development – specifically mentions the trees and confirms they would be kept.

But council officers later gave the developer permission to remove them.

A statement from Adur District Council says: “After subsequent discussions between the developer and council officers, it was agreed that those trees could be removed because they were of low quality, according to a report by tree experts.”

Separately, Adur & Worthing Councils affirmed their commitment to tree planting and received £18,000 from The Tree Council for a winter planting programme.

Trees should not typically be felled at this time of year to protect nesting birds under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) but contractor Real employed an ecologist to confirm that there were none.

SHG says it will re-plant the area 'with native species' and ADC says it has secured a 'long-term maintenance plan' to ensure the 'long-term success of the new greenery'.

Cathy Bacon, head of delivery and regeneration at Southern Housing Group, said: “We know that people can be upset at the sight of trees being felled.

"However, by replacing them with a variety of more sustainable and native species such as Hornbeams and Hawthorn, the new development will be more visually attractive and biodiverse and a benefit to the whole community.”

But Steve Neocleous, Adur District Council’s executive member for regeneration, said he was ‘disappointed’ and has called for a report into the decision.

“I’m very disappointed that this decision could have been taken without it being referred back to councillors for further consideration,” he said.

“I have asked officers to produce a report on this case detailing the decision-making process surrounding the trees which I will then make public.

“It is important that residents have confidence in the decisions we make and that can only happen if they are in possession of all of the facts.”

Mr Gardner believes the decision should have come back to councillors.

He added: “It is not fair to officers, or the public, for decisions of this magnitude to be taken behind closed doors.

“The loss of these trees is significant. They are among the most effective in capturing carbon and research has shown they are 40 per cent better at capturing particulates than native trees.

“At a time of climate emergency when trees are vitally important in locking up carbon, we need to treasure our trees.

“Something needs to be done to stop this happening again.”