Jenners Planning Application will remove more than just trees

Folkestone & Hythe District Council declared a Climate Emergency in July 2019, committing to become carbon neutral by 2030. The same year, Friends of the Earth launched a campaign to double tree cover for the benefit of “wildlife, air quality and wellbeing”. The Shepway Vox TEAM previously reported that we need to look after our trees and increase planting, pointing out the Terra Sulis opportunity woodland map. It is good to see that the Council committed to supporting The Queen’s Green Canopy as part of this year’s Jubilee celebrations with the planting of a dozen London Planes in Cheriton Recreation Ground, Go Folkestone’s Green Gang have been planting trees in Three Hills and Rotarians helped Morehall Primary School plant two fruit trees. This is all a good start, though we are well behind Ashford Borough Council’s commitment to plant nearly 135,500 trees in the next 3 years. Meanwhile, Kent County Council have an open consultation on their proposed Tree Establishment Strategy 2022-2032, looking to plant 1.5 million in that time, giving an average district tree canopy cover of 19% by 2050.

It would seem, however, that not everyone has got the message. You may recall public concern about over intensive coppicing at Hogs Wood,  along Hythe Canal in April 2021 and palm trees within a Conservation Area on Folkestone seafront were moved onto the beach without a section 211 notice. The latter was the decision of Folkestone Harbour & Seafront Development Company, who purchased the Marina car park in 2018, and chose Jenner (Contractors) Ltd to build the beach apartments now called Shoreline – Where the Lands Meets the Sea. Jenner have recently made an application for works to trees in a Conservation Area, 22/0039/FH/TCA. The trees in question [marked in red above], are immediately behind the Marina car park, and applicant, Lee Foottit of Jenner Contractors ticked the box stating the applicant, Jenner, owns the trees.

In what we can only assume is another “validation error” from Folkestone & Hythe District Council, the proposal description lists 17 individual sycamore trees, 2 hawthorns and an elder (that’s 20 trees) and 6 groups of trees to be felled, with a total of 119 trees amongst the groups – a grand total of 139 trees that Jenner wishes to cut down. Unfortunately, this information is inaccurate – as detailed in the accompanying documentation, there are 21 individual trees and 8 groups. The true total is 151 trees to be removed.

So why do they want to remove these trees? The official answer is to enable Slope Reinforcement Works “to ensure the public footpaths remain open and safe”. However, the application form curiously spends more time focusing on the fact the site has been used by homeless people, blaming them for the poor management of the trees. Prior to explaining the stabilisation work, it suggests that the removal of trees will be “an improvement in the local area” due to “preventing the site from being used as a place to facilitate the taking of drugs.”

The documentation suggests that “a number of the trees surveyed are category U in a condition that they cannot realistically be retained as living trees in the context of the current land use for longer than 10 years” and that “the remaining trees surveyed are category C of low quality with an estimated remaining life expectancy of at least 10 years, having very limited merit or such impaired condition that they do not qualify in a higher category.” You would be forgiven for thinking that this suggests the majority of trees are unsalvageable. However, there is reference to a “historic Tree Condition Survey” by TMA. This document, produced in 2019 (very historic!) actually details 7 category U trees out of 151. That’s 5% of all of the trees. Unfortunately, the survey only has 5 pages, yet the pagination suggests there were 8 pages. Have the remaining pages been omitted from public view?

The stability report by Fairhurst Geotechnical that the application states “made recommendations on how to best protect the area into the future” certainly hasn’t been made public, though a paragraph suggests it assessed using a soil nail grid solution or sheet pile wall to “provide the necessary retaining support until permanent conditions can be achieved”, whilst admitting that this was only assessed for feasibility and will “require a detailed design to allow implementation.”

The Institute of Civil Engineers state that “the direct reinforcement available from the roots of trees and shrubs is identified as providing one of the most significant contributions to slope stability” and slope deforestation was the main blame for a major Warwickshire landslip in 2015. And, of course, it is well-known that trees absorb carbon and are therefore vital in the fight against climate change. US non-profit Stand For Trees have summed up studies on these benefits, generally agreeing that mature trees store the most carbon. This was backed up by recent research at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, which concluded that mature trees can boost the amount of carbon dioxide they absorb. It is somewhat concerning, therefore, that the trees are being dismissed as of no value. It would be helpful to see the Fairhurst report and a more comprehensive tree survey to determine whether so many trees “from early mature to mature species” need to be cut down.

The Council’s Arboricultural Manager has been consulted on the application but, as is so often the case, his report has not been made public. Given that, how can councilors make decisions, if it comes to planning committee without ALL the facts? Also, there is mention of “a number of brick build interconnected subterranean structures.” We believe this to be the last remaining remnants of the 1869 Bathing Establishment (later known as the Marina) – probably relating to the water tanks. However, it would appear that neither the Council’s Conservation Consultant, nor KCC Archaeology, have been consulted on this application within a Conservation Area, which seems rather remiss. It is unclear whether the applicant intends to remove said structures.

The application form does suggest there are “options for replanting on completion”, though no details are given and this is contradicted immediately in the same sentence by the suggestion that removal of tree coverage prevents drug use. Surely you wouldn’t replant trees if you believe they assist drug users? We are unsure whether Mr. Foot tit has a dislike of trees, or just homeless people. Or perhaps he is merely footing the blame for another party?

The Shepway Vox Team

Being Voxatious is NOT a Crime

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