Trees felled to make way for CFL's new office block

OUTLINE Planning permission has been approved for a new office block, the construction of which will controversially require the removal of a grove of trees.

 

OUTLINE Planning permission has been approved for a new office block, the construction of which will controversially require the removal of a grove of trees.

Approval for the two-storey Consolidated Fisheries Ltd (CFL)building was passed with a three-two committee vote in favour on Wednesday.The Planning and Building Committee met with a packed gallery of media and interested parties, attending to hear the outcome of what in recent weeks had become a much discussed subject locally.

CFL’s application to construct a new office and associated access roads on land to the north of Seafish Chandlery will mean that an unidentified number of established Lodgepole Pine trees will have to be removed, and it was the demise and current condition of the trees that took up much of the meeting.

MLA Barry Elsby, in an unusual move for the Chair, led the vote against the application, expressing his disappointment that alternative sites had not been explored as suggested at a previous meeting and also his concern that if approved it would inevitably lead to further development and all the trees eventually being destroyed. He also said he disagreed with the point that the view from the Narrows would be enhanced as a result of the development as Planning Officer Lee Kenebel had mentioned while presenting the application. Committee member Roxanne King-Clark shared his views, saying the whole area would be “trashed” if the application was to be approved.

The Market Garden had a wonderful vision for many years as a public amenity, said Mrs Clark adding that this could be lost simply because it had not been properly written into relevant policies. Baron Brunton-Goss however cast his vote in favour and pointed out that the latest application was in fact a preferable site to the earlier approved application which he described as “visually horrendous” and reminded the committee that that site could be still developed if the application currently on the table was refused.

Further commercial development would inevitably take place and because of that it was important that some other land was designated for park development, said Mr Brunton-Goss. MLA Mark Pollard also voted in favour, adding that it was indeed “the lesser of two evils,” even though he did not want to see trees being pulled up.

He said the idea of what is immediately seen on entry to the harbour was “all a bit mad,” and voiced his support for CFL’s plans to plant trees elsewhere on a designated area to create a parkGary Clement had the final vote and said that he was confident that due diligence and consultation had been exercised in the allocation of the E3 area for commercial development within the Town Plan and welcomed CFL’s offer to maintain the remaining tree plantation, which was currently not being maintained.  CFL’s General Manager Janet Robertson took the opportunity to state her case and outlined landscaping, maintenance and replanting plans. Working in conjunction with the PWD it is hoped that areas for planting will be identified and suitable trees and plants put in place, creating community amenities.

There was one letter of objection received by the Committee from Tim Miller who operates the Market Garden, and is a landowner sharing a boundary with the E3 area.He said he had not received notification of the application and was under the impression that as a neighbour it was a requirement for the Government to inform him. “Unless of course it was hoped by FIG that given my objection previously and the resulting refusal decision, that this time I might not notice and it could all quietly go through,” said Mr Miller.He said there had been a will for the Planning Committee to see the whole area redesignated to its pre-2015 listing.

He said he had offered again just a few months ago to develop the tree plantation area as a community sheltered forest area with walkways and sheltered glades for seating and picnic benches etc at zero cost to FIG and the taxpayer, seeing as how it was he who had planted the trees originally in 1995.Mr Miller also made representation at Wednesday’s meeting supporting his objection and asked after an ExCo paper requested by the Planning and Building Chairman after the November 2018 meeting which was to be aimed at redesignating the E3 area.

MLA Barry Elsby later explained that while this paper had been written, it had in fact been pulled the day before Executive Council met.