St Albans residents launch fight to protect trees from care home plan

A scheme for a large care home would irretrievably damage 17 protected trees according to concerned local residents.

They have launched a campaign to save the limes, all of which have Tree Preservation Orders(TPOs) on them, which they fear would not survive the construction of a large care home at the site in London Road, St Albans, which is currently occipied by three detached houses on spacious plots.

Sixty residents turned up on Saturday morning to launch the Save Our Trees campaign joined by St Albans Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate Sandy Walkington.

Save Our Trees has commissioned a report from Henry Girling, one of Hertfordshire’s most experienced arboriculturalists, which has concluded the lime trees will not survive a proposed large care home development because of their proximity to both the building and car parking.

But a report on the planning application for an 81-bed care home on the site which goes to a St Albans council planning meeting on Monday takes a different view.

It admits that the council’s trees and woodlands officer and landscape officer had raised concerns about the potential impact on the hardstanding for car parking on the TPO trees at the front of the site.

But it maintains that the applicants, Signature Senior Lifestyle, had demonstrated to the satisfaction of the trees officer, Andrew Branch, that the development could go ahead without adversely affecting the trees.

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Local resident Stephen Wragg, who is leading the campaign, said “it is most surprising that the planning officer has overruled both the council tree officer and landscape officer who have advised the building should be reduced in size and moved away from these very important trees to avoid harming them.

“The preservation of our historic natural environment is hugely important and there is no justification for a building of this size. The council should protect these trees and reject this harmful application.”

Mr Wragg urged people to visit the website and added: “The preservation of the St Albans environment by the council is a district-wide issue. I would encourage as many people as possible to visit the website and sign the online petition to protect these trees.”

Sandy Walkington said: “There is no justification for a building of this size which is wholly out of character with the surrounding area.

“The sheer scale is putting enormous pressure on these trees which are integral to the character of this part of London Road, a historic gateway to our city”.

The planning application is recommended for approval despite concerns about the trees and a strongly-worded objection from the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group concerned about the impact on local GP services of an influx of frail elderly people from outside the area.

In a letter on behalf of Dr Jill Bartlett, chair of the commissioning group’s St Albans and Harpenden locality, it was pointed out that district needed more carers to visit and provide help for people in their own homes not more care home beds.