Decision to cut down trees ‘bypassed democracy’

The trees, pictured behind the Scout hall, are now gone. Picture: Google
The trees, pictured behind the Scout hall, are now gone. Picture: Google

A decision to cut down trees and install a phone mast has completely bypassed elected officials and ignored a government order, say campaigners.

However, it was recently revealed that a fresh 2015 application for the mast was approved with no conditions relating to the trees.

Residents in the Glenbervie Road area were shocked in mid-July to find that the trees had been cut down.

Councillor David Ross said: “My understanding was that there were conditions that the trees were to be left.

“Last week I was contacted by residents who found the trees had been cut down.

“It transpired during a conversation with planners than in 2015 there was permission given through delegated powers, so it didn’t come to the members or the planning committee.

“For some reason that we haven’t worked out yet, the condition was left out.

“I think it’s particularly bad practice for whoever cut them down to just go ahead and do it whether they’ve got the legal right or not, without realising the residents would be upset by it.”

Councillor Crooks said: “At that time the screening condition was reluctantly accepted by the local councillors and community and until last week I had no further contact on the matter.

“On investigation I was advised that a new application for a mast was received in 2015 and was approved under delegated powers.

“However the conditions about retaining the trees for screening were not included which technically allowed them to be removed.

“I have asked a few people living in the vicinity if they knew of the mast being changed in 2015 and no one knew.

“The planning officer has acted within the powers delegated so councillors would not have directly been asked for a view.

“I think when a Government reporter imposed conditions and there is a record of councillors rejecting an application on this site there should be a procedure under delegated powers to check the application with elected members locally.

“I have contacted the Chief Officer, Economy Planning and Employability Services about this case and how we can introduce a process to prevent such an obvious democratic deficit in the future.

“This highlights to me that when planning committees or officers or reporters see fit to impose planning conditions to retain trees there should be an automatic procedure to have Tree Protection Orders initiated for the identified trees.

“Fife Council’s tree management officer would like to discuss the tree removal with the contractor but no-one has yet identified who actually did the work. If the public can help with this identification it would be really helpful.

“One of the trees was a sycamore which must have been over 80 years old and in full leave with chestnuts forming. Usually trees are felled out with the nesting season, so why the rush?”

Pam Ewen, chief officer planning, said: “We are currently looking into the details of the planning application and whether the application site included the area where the tree stood.

“In determining the planning application, we did take account of the previous decision.

“We will look at whether our systems need to be tightened up following a committee decision, if applications are subsequently looked at again through delegated powers.

“We will be in touch with Cllr Crooks to fully discuss this once I have had time to look at the case in more detail.”

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